Friday, September 11, 2015

Early-Morning Aristocracy

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”    H.D. Thoreau
“Tradesmen and domestics must use the freight elevator”   Sign in east-side apartment house

Morning Glories in Morningside Heights 
I get up early these days, partly because sleep is scarce in old age, but also because the hours around dawn are the best of the day, and I don’t want to miss anything.

From four to six, the city is as quiet as it ever is.  The breeze is fresh, the air is clean, a rare calm prevails.  And it's time to commune with the “early-morning aristocracy.” 

This little phrase occurred to me many years ago, riding the subway from the outer reaches of Brooklyn to a job in Manhattan that began at 5:30 a.m.  The subway car was full, but still quiet and calm.  All around me were sitting half-asleep, in various states of meditation, my fellow morning laborers: bakers, coffee-shop waitresses, horse-cab drivers, construction workers, nannies, food-cart vendors, garbage collectors, news writers, fishmongers, who knows what? They were up early so the city could get the running start it demands every day. 

Outdoors, other species predominate.  Pigeons have an early-morning dignity they lose when the sun rises higher.  Left to themselves, they strut and peck about the pavement, clearing the deck for the flood of pedestrians who will soon overrun it.  Dogs, wide awake, pull their walkers along.  The dominance is reversed after breakfast, when the dogs settle down for their long day’s nap, and the owners get about their affairs. 

Flowers preen as sunshine steals through the trees.  Morning glories climb the fence and open royal-hued reproductive organs.  Bees and butterflies oblige.

It’s all over by seven.  The coffee brewed, the pastries baked, the chairs set out, the news written, the ticker up and running, the garbage collected, the morning glories visited, the early-morning aristocracy yawns, and “dawn goes down to day.”   

Copyright 2015 by Tom Phillips

1 comment:

  1. I like it, but it doesn't tempt me to move to the city. Here the early morning is dominated by the sun and the leaves, or lack of thereof. Helen