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Up Early


Up early. The coffee pot caked in expired grounds. Took paper toweling off the rack. Rinsed. Scrubbed the filter and the pot. Then put in six scoops of ground coffee for five cups of water. Wanted the caffeine.

Bent over the stove and loaded it up with dried wood, newspaper and a handful of pine starter sticks. Lit a match. A good one. One from those big boxes of matches that look like they could be lit in a gale. Watched the paper catch. Then the starters. The logs a bit damp still, as it turned out. They hissed a little. Closed the iron door and watched the flame struggle to get going. Left it.

Went outside to feel the bite of one degree air. Hadn't felt it since Chicago, certainly not throughout the over-warm New York winter. Wished it could be winter for another three months. Wished for three more days in the country. Or, well. Away from the city. In the quiet. Had slept like a mummy, wrapped in blankets, bed stacked atop a wall electric heater. Silent. At home in Brooklyn, there's a high-pitched whine from the wireless router in the bedroom.

Gina can't hear it. Maybe I'm losing my mind for real. Nice to have it verified that there are still silent rooms. And cabins. And cold mornings.

Outside on the acre of grassy slope, angled toward a forested mountain, the air thick with my breath. Below ten degrees, the hairs inside my nose crinkle. Cold with spring light. Yellower than winter light. The sun higher. Clocks set forward automatically the night before. Phone had the correct time. Annually the hardest jet-lag to get over is that measly hour forward. Send me around the world on a 747 and I'll arrive ready to go. Send the clocks forward 60 minutes and I'm wrecked for a week, struggling to find my footing in a world that suddenly has more light in the afternoons.

Clouds moved fast. Walked around the ice crunch of three inches of snow . Turned around to look at the chimney puffing out of the cabin. Everyone else would be up in a few hours. Had spent five months by myself in relative isolation, holed up in the air conditioned apartment in Chicago. Now, I savor solitude, even though I'm happy enough to be around people again most of the time.

To find solitude from the group, nested within the solitude of a mini-vacation seeking solitude from the horde. How much of a hermit did I actually want to be? How hard is it actually to find silence. How badly did I actually, really want it? Wouldn't I be freaking out and diving for my phone, scrolling through news after two hours anyway?

This desire for aloneness can feel like a pose. But still, out in one degree for a few moments before the heartiest of birds started singing, relished the clear head. Relished residual warmth from the cabin. Relished even the construction of the pastoral. It's okay, once in a while, I decided, to forget that we're almost always only moving through stage sets.