Fishermen know it. Hunters, too. So does the great blue heron, who is both a fisherman and hunter. Early mornings contain the best this world has to offer. Let others rise too late; it’s their loss. Paddling slowly on a winding river at first light, I observe as much wild silence as possible.
The heron stands sentinel on the end of a dock, soaking in the morning sun and waiting. Loons bob and preen around me. A painted turtle raises his head for just a moment, then quietly withdraws back under the water’s surface like a prowling U-boat. A wood duck hen with her grown chicks rises from the cattails, squealing twice then flapping away with her offspring.
A furtive doe wanders to edge of the river to drink, her even more furtive fawn hanging back. A gigantic snapping turtle, ugly and covered in algae, eases off a muskrat house and slides into the river. A minnow leaps airborne three times, like a tiny skipping stone. The plink of the little fish landing back in the water is almost imperceptible.
The morning belongs to them, too. By midday all will be hiding from the world as motor boats and ATVs and loud voices show them that the people are here and they’re awake now.
I know there are some who claim that nighttime is the best time. They’re wrong, though. Night people think only of the warm, bright evenings and the emerging stars and campfires with smoke rising straight into the sky. They don’t mind the sounds of people laughing and music wafting and ice cubes rattling through the still night air. They don’t think about how quiet the world is at daybreak.
The artificial lights that surround and illuminate humanity from dusk to dawn are comforting to some, bothersome to me. I think the wild things around me agree. Those nighttime lights and sounds and perpetual activity must surely annoy the deer, the wood ducks, the turtles.
Nocturnal creatures must be especially offended by the interruptions. Their world is meant to be mostly silent and always mysterious.
Little brown bats circle soundlessly in the big red pines, picking off moths and mosquitos. The owls that nest in those same pines don’t make a noise besides the occasional hoot as they go about their nighttime lives. I have to believe they wish we’d do the same.
The fox that wanders up the rutted lane to our door surely doesn’t appreciate the arc lamp that blazes all night, every night on the place just across the river. I know I don’t. Only the spring peepers seem immune to the disturbance of night people. They happily pipe away all night long, only falling silent when approached too closely.
Mornings aren’t like that. The peepers quiet down, the lamps go out, the people sleep in, the real world wakes up. That is where I find my joy. I feel most alive at 4am; or 5am if I’ve slept in. Daybreak belongs to just the lucky few who know when to sleep and when to rise. Nature isn’t often wrong and I am a creature of the morning.