There are times when I walk early in the morning in the dark before the sun rises. This may occur because it is so hot during the day or I may expect work to be very busy. On occasions I merely wake up early and feel like taking my walk before the day gets started. Darkness changes the dimensions of the walk. When I meet or pass other walkers they seem wary and isolated. There are no cheery smiles or waves as darkness opens our minds to fears that vanish with the rising of the sun. In the darkness any light stands out. I notice the spot-lighted trees and garden plots weakly illuminated by their solar powered lamps. Orange tinted sodium vapor street lamps glow with their haze of insects ever moving around them mesmerized by their brightness. Occasionally a bat swoops by grateful for an easy catch.
In the darkness as I walk foot-falls are more distinct. My ear notes the tap and scrape of every step I take, a sound not noticed during the brightness of the day. In the dark the path taken is not as certain as in the daylight. My plans may be to follow this path or sidewalk or that road but in the dark the automatic sprinklers throw up their barriers of spray twinkling in the street lights. At other times sluicing run-off along the roadside muddies the path causing me to veer to the other side. Early commuters pose a threat as well as they back their vehicles from darkened garages necessitating watchfulness and quickness to avoid being a statistic in the dark.
Cottontails love the darkness too. As I walk along the path in the pre-dawn they are less afraid or more distracted by the sweet smelling succulent clover. My approach may go unnoticed until I am within a few feet. Then, alarm, and several shapes scatter into foundation plantings and shrubbery. Yet they are silent in their movement had I not been alert I might have missed even this. Owls with their low who-who sound have surely not missed this and may be waiting for me to move along as they seek their prey in the early hours.
Owners of dogs like the darkness too. In the early morning often can be found the family pet unchained in their front yard. Flaunting collar rules it is easier to release the hound to find its own way in the morning than to obediently walk the pet allowing it to do its duty. Some of these pets do not like walkers and the quiet atmosphere and calmness of the amble can be loudly disrupted by barking and bared teeth. I have loved dogs in my past, but have also been bitten. There is a fear inside as uncontrollable as a sneeze that asserts itself regardless of the size of the beast whenever I hear a barking dog. Dachshund or Doberman makes no difference to my reactions. My own instincts take over and make my feet want to run. Thankfully the most common type of dog I am faced with is a terrier or a poodle. My brain is able to override my fear and I wave pleasantly at the owner who stands at the door calling back their pet.
The beauty of dawn is difficult to match. It approaches steadily and silently. Sounds in the air change as houses become more distinct. The chirping and whirring of the crickets is replaced by robin calls and the skreegh of the red tail hawk floating above the trees enjoying the first hint of updrafts from the fields. The first ochre rays of sun cause a rise in the temperature perceptibly and reflect off eastward facing windows of the taller homes. Traffic begins to pick up as early commuters seek to beat the rush or get an early start on their busy day. I try to keep my mind on the natural scene but this intrusion moves me toward home as well and into an equally busy day.by