a city awakening

I wake up like an old fluorescent light bulb hanging in a barn — a long, slow flicker until I reach full power. My best mornings are spent in silence and stillness. I used to believe this meant I was not a morning person. But that is not true. In fact, I love mornings. Only in the early morning can I bask in quiet and calm, which is maddeningly elusive in an urban center.

Just as I discovered in my tenure here that I am at least 35 percent introverted, I believe am at least a third morning person. I just don’t do mornings like others might expect. I don’t wake up at full tilt, bolting up like a firefighter responding to an alarm. Instead, I prefer to lay in bed, quietly taking in my surroundings, meditating on the warmth of the sheets or the light filtering through the linen curtains.

It is a moment of privilege to experience this twilight of solitude. When I can experience the blessed wilderness, I like to sleep with the window cracked open. This way I can hear the pre-dawn call of the first bird that starts the morning chorus.

We have been spared the intense heat that has scorched other parts of Europe. But the mid-afternoon sun in Lisbon is still relentless. So early this morning I opted for a walk in the fresh air. These morning walks give me an opportunity to experience a different kind of city. I watch and hear it awaken.

The scrape of a woman’s cane across the calçada, the limestone cobblestone pavement. The rumble of the empty tram heaving up the hill. The old men on the park bench clearing out their smokers’ phlegm. The crash of glass as street cleaners clear out hundreds of empty beer bottles left along the riverside by late night, inconsiderate revelers. The screech of swallows as they dive bomb between buildings.

Early in the morning each of these sounds is distinct. As the sun rises higher across the river, people awaken and pour out onto the street. The sounds blend into a single, indistinguishable cacophony of urban soundscape.

I retreat to the apartment and the safety of my noise-cancelling headphones. But for a beautiful hour, I experienced the quiet stillness of early morning.

Photo by César Couto on Unsplash

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