The darkness of early morning this time of year is fascinating in a way that is different from early morning hours of January. Instead of the frozen, hibernating, peaceful world of a Northern Hemisphere winter, the overnights of June have explicit sounds, sights, and smells.
I pocket a small flashlight, mainly for self-protection and reassurance. It’s rarely switched on because I don’t want to throw off my night vision.
It’s the early morning that tom cats like best, too. There is mystery and slight fear of what does not get illuminated by the Moon or the streetlights. There is a grove of old elms that shelter small mammals and large owls. The balance of nature takes place there in its primal form.
The pools of streetlight illumination are oases on the avenue. The light provides the illusion of safety and enables the hidden creatures the opportunity to observe me. I wonder if one of the creatures might be a human criminal even though nobody is ever mugged in this small city. Yet the thought makes me more alert.
All alone, I strain my eyes and ears to examine the features of the neighborhood. A window flickers from the television screen of an insomniac or late sleeper. A large dog barks at the sound of my passing. Nearby is the howl of two cats mating.
Ahead, at a vacant block of no houses, I stop walking and stand on the street in the darkness, away from the streetlights to simply breathe and observe the waning gibbous Moon in the West. Then I think of astronaut Neil Armstrong and what he might have seen in the Summer of ’69–not stated in his official reports. I envy what he probably felt. Did he and Buzz Aldrin ponder the Earth in waxing crescent phase? Do two explorers, isolated from each other in airtight space suits, qualify as a pair of hermits?
I shake the inquiring monkey mind from consciousness and refocus attention to the sound of an ambulance siren a couple of miles away to the north. The day is not beginning well for some poor, unfortunate soul this morning. It’s a reminder about the full cycle of life.
It’s odd that in my desire to walk in the silence of the early morning that there is so much sound around me. Instead of introspection in the solitude, I find myself analyzing the life that manifests all around. In a sense, this is a small city that never sleeps.
I hang onto these thoughts as I face the opposite direction and walk back in the direction of my home.