Words by Jillian Conner
I was born and raised in Vermont. My state is famed for it’s weather, which they say changes every fifteen minutes. There, the seasons announce themselves abruptly, falling hard and heavy on it’s green mountains. Our neighbors throughout New England know that winter darkness seeps into our mornings just the way an icy draft slips through an old window frame. We awake to summer humidity that saturates our wooden houses making it difficult to close doors entirely, and somehow the chill of an Autumn morning can be felt even below a few layers of blankets. Unfortunately, this is how my distaste for mornings was conceived.
Before my exit from the scholarly world last May, my life had been completely dictated by an academic calendar which muddled the seasons into one big early morning. The only solace I found was during the summer when I generally slept until eleven in the morning and barely ever felt awake. In all honestly, I never liked that facet of my personality. As a result, I’ve made a few attempts at rewiring my circadian clock to be one with an aptitude for early mornings. But as it turns out, academia is not the best place to train oneself to be an early bird.
But this past August, things changed. As a recent college graduate newly transplanted in coastal Massachusetts with a fresh job and apartment, I let myself be. The pressure was off; I was free to adjust and readjust to my new life as necessary. And it was just as I released the pressure gauge within myself that my understanding of mornings began to take root. One uncommon morning, I woke early. Realizing it was garbage day, I dashed out the door with recycling bin in hand to place it with the others on the sidewalk. The morning haze still clung to the ground and felt heavy on my face. The smell of salt and brine crept through the streets right to my feet. With one sweet inhale, I was captivated by this glorious morning and as if by ancient instinct, returned inside to put on my sneakers and shorts. After that, I rose early and took a two mile walk every single morning for the remainder of the summer and into fall. It was as if the season was calling me to be outside and join it for a stroll. Awaking early no longer felt like a burden but more like catching up with an old friend.
Then Daylight savings time happened. Winter was coming, and it didn’t feel friendly. I felt my spirit begin to wane with the light of day, becoming more and more lethargic. Those mornings, at 7am in the pitch dark, I couldn’t quite bring myself to crawl out of bed and bundle up for a walk. And at the end of the day, returning to a pitch dark house at four o’clock was less than motivation for some exercise. It didn’t take long for me to realize what was happening - my energy was wilting with the leaves outside my window. We were one and the same. The trees fell dormant, accepting their impending respite, and I would be smart to follow suit. So I stopped walking.
But after spending a few months tucked away, spring is now in our midst. The thermometers are creeping above freezing, miniature rivers of melting ice are running across the driveway and the flower buds are peeking out of their soil patches awaiting bright sunshine. But best of all, we are all blossoming too. Each morning is lighter than the next, and you can feel the renewed energy of every person you pass on the sidewalk. A few days ago, when I squinted my eyes open and noticed sunshine passing through the curtains again, the instinct to rise and be active returned. After dressing and walking out the door, I inhaled deeply to appreciate the freshness of this first spring morning. I strolled through neighborhoods of colonial houses and listened cheerfully to the birds chirping up above. For the first time in months, my muscles weren’t clenched and hunched, straining to keep every last ounce of warmth inside my jacket. They were open and accepting, pulling in every sensation all at once. This is the beauty of a spring morning - renewal. It is a privilege to witness the buds forming on trees, the robins and geese return to their riverside summer homes, and our fellow humans rejoice in this new beginning.
Perhaps being a morning person has nothing to do with rising early and productivity. Maybe a true morning person is one who lets their mind, body and spirit ebb and flow just the way the seasons do; in and out, up and down. Acting with your heart above all, especially early in the day, just might lead to a deeper connection to the planet and it’s rhythms, which ultimately leads to a more balanced and fulfilling life. As we venture into the warmer months, taking time to appreciate the flower buds glistening with dew in the morning light, or listen to the birds chirp along with children boarding their school bus might just be the key to finding your morning peace.