Early Bird

This morning, I woke up at 4:30.

That's actually my normal wake-up time. I set my alarm for 5:00, but it's rare for it to ever go off. I've usually showered, shaved, dressed, and shut it down before it has a chance to play the first few bars of Oregon's "Aurora." My internal clock is a useful thing to have on school days, when it gets me out the door and on the road across town to East Portland before the 6:30 rush.

On weekends, though, it can be frustrating. Yesterday I lay in bed, snuggling with Amy, for 45 minutes before deciding, around 5:15, to just give in and get up. Today, though, I was able to get back to sleep, and this time it was Amy's 7:00 alarm that woke me up--a sound so rare to my ears it shocked me, as did the sunlight streaming through the window. I put the extra hours of sleep down to a light evening--we didn't get home from Comedy Sportz until 11:15, and probably weren't asleep until midnight.

For the most part, though, I can count on my body clock to have me not just awake, but out of bed by 5:00. What about summer, you ask? By the time school is out, the sun is rising so early that I couldn't stay asleep if I wanted to.

Waking up that early, you might think I'm in bed by 9:00, but you'd be wrong. I'm usually asleep by 11:00. Yes, I can do the math, too: I know that means I'm getting at most six hours of sleep, and that only when it's my alarm that wakes me. I appear not to need more than that, though, since I'm just naturally awake and alert by 5:00.

I do need a short afternoon nap most days--and by short, I mean less than five minutes. My subconscious seizes the opportunity to go instantly into REM sleep, where I have incredibly vivid dreams that seem to last for hours. Coming out of my nap, though, I find whatever song or news story I might have been listening to when I gave into the need to sleep is still playing.

I'm not sure how far back my early to rise habits go. As a teenager, I know that, given the chance, I often slept until noon during the summer--though usually I'd been up until 2:00 or 3:00 reading. The first time I can remember being really aware of an abnormal body clock was my mid-30s, when struggling with divorce, remarriage, redivorce, career change, and my son's epilepsy gave my mind so much to dwell on whenever I was awake. Being a light sleeper--a trait I share with my mother--also meant I was usually the one to pop out of bed when the baby needed changing or feeding in the middle of the night, so having small children in the house probably laid the groundwork for this trait starting when I was 28, and became a father.

I know that midlife brings a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night, usually coupled with a need for a quick trip to the bathroom, and this has been true for me, so chances are I'm not going to become a deep, late sleeper anytime soon.

To be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way. Early birding makes many things possible besides being on time for work. I can start my day without any sense of being rushed. If it's the weekend, I have time to enjoy breakfast, do a few chores, read a book, sometimes even write an entire blog post before anyone else is up. In the summer, if it's a running day, I can get in an entire workout--sometimes a long one--and be back in time to have breakfast with Amy. When I was in Ghana, I was out every morning on a run, much more tolerable at sunrise than it would have been later in the day.

I'm not in any hurry, then, to put an end to my early birding. As long as I'm working, it's too useful a habit to discard. Come retirement, I might be singing a different tune, but until then, I'm going to go on enjoying the quiet, the coffee, and the sunrise.


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