24 August 2010
These past few mornings have been the first since summer came that I have driven to work in darkness. Granted, I started coming in earlier; I'm on the road at five-thirty now, but even so, until recently it was at least dawn by that time.
Not so anymore. It's black when I start the car, and the sky is just blueing by the time I arrive, just a couple of minutes before six. No shadows have yet been cast, and there's a new quiet to these mornings.
When I was fifteen, I had a job at the McDonald's in Spruce Grove. Most of the two and a half years I worked there was completely forgettable, but I remember very clearly some of the winter mornings I opened there. I forget exactly what time we had to be there, but it was around five, if memory serves at all. My dad would usually ask me, the night before, if I wanted a ride in the morning, and I almost always declined.
It had to be a forty-five minute walk. A long way, through the center of town and up by the highway where there was no sidewalk. You had to just walk on the shoulder where the snow was just getting deep. Trudging would be the best word for it.
And so it was that Christmas Eve morning, a little before five. It was probably twenty degrees below freezing and there was just a little snow falling. I was on the side of the highway and the sky was pitch black and the road glistened in the orange glow that the streetlights cast on it. And it was wondrously quiet. In December, birds don't sing and leaves don't rustle. And on Christmas Eve, no one travels the highway west of Spruce Grove at four thirty in the morning. The snow, in the absence of wind, came almost straight down and softly lighted on the ground without impact. I was a very rare and beautiful kind of alone.
It was like I hoped never to arrive and for the sun never to rise. I could have walked on in that dark stillness for ages.
These mornings now are reassuring. Though it comes with bitter cold and no small amount of inconvenience, that stillness will return. The slight chill in the air as I walked from the door to the car and the world between me and the sun were its first heralds.
The wind still rustles the leaves. It's a ways off yet. Give it time.