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Morning song

By Jefferson Weaver

Mr. Roo greets the morning an hour or so early every day, much to the dismay of the geese.

I don’t know why our rooster gets an early start, but that’s better than the one we had who might crow at any point on the clock, day or night, for no reason other than the fact that he could. He was not our favorite chicken.

It is true that I love the night, with the glory of a star-spotted blue-black sky reminding us that we’re really not that significant. There’s nothing like being in the deep woods or beside a snapping fire with a lazy moon sliding through the pines with the enthusiasm of a first-grader leaving Grandma’s house for the classroom of a least-favorite teacher.

But when it’s been a bad night, the morning always seems to make things better. When the dawn reluctantly shoos away a good night, the sunrise makes things better still.

Perhaps Mr. Roo has a consistently positive attitude, and that’s why he starts the day before the day itself. Maybe he just has a strict work ethic, and sees time in bed as wasted if one can see the first hues hint that the sun is about to make its appearance.

I love the dawn – not as much as Mr. Roo, perhaps, but still with the joy of a child on Christmas. God never paints the sky the same way, and no amount of photography can ever truly preserve His artistry, on a canvas He created, with paints of light He mixed Himself.

My day usually starts with Mr. Roo’s reveille (or is it reverie? Who knows?). It isn’t long after his first call to arms that the alarms go off, reminding me that lying in bed doesn’t count for getting up and at’em.

William IX is also a morningaphile, and it doesn’t take long for him to work his way up to a full-bore redbone roar if I spend too much time under the covers. My bride could sleep through a hurricane in a capsized boat flying through a glass factory, so responding to the hound’s entreaties fall on me. The other dogs are far more polite; indeed, Walter the Wonder Dog will often give William a stink-eye, and slide into my still-warm spot beside his mother.

As the door opens, William joyously rockets toward freedom, judiciously avoiding the always-angry geese. The nightshift cats exchange places with the dayshift, exchanging notes about the mouse in the kitchen or the varmints that trespassed in the yard.

Old Red whickers, Tally whinnies, and Melanie draws back and brays with the music that only a fan of donkeys can love, although she readily shares the tune with everything and everyone within a mile with ears to hear. Mellie is a lady, though, and usually only gives one brief bray as I stagger outside to greet the day.

Our home is back in a hollow, with a mixture of vintage pines and hardwoods towering over the house, and a misbegotten pine plantation due east. The lane parallels the old railbed, so for several months out of the year, the sun shines straight and clean down the pine, bay and scrub oaks lining the tunnel from the start of day to the end.

The guineas, busy with their secret but important plans, are usually examining the yard by the time I am stirring, although I admit it’s fun to wake them from their perches in the old oak, and watch them panic their way to the ground looking like miniature turkeys, but with none of the grace and class of a big gobbler.

The geese are shrewish from the moment I walk outside, whether it’s Pippin on a late nest shared with, then stolen from the ducks (if those eggs hatch, they’ll be a confused bunch of birds) or the rest of the gang. The other geese complain that the ditch is too cold, or the pinestraw too lumpy, or the corn too dry for their tastes. A half-hearted, harmless wave of the walking stick usually sends them away with threats to write a strongly worded letter to management.

The only exception to the rudeness is old Duck-Duck; at 14, he has all the graciousness of a Southern colonel or a Spanish patron, tempered with the philosophy and wisdom of old age. He makes his manners, I make mine, and he walks with me for a few feet, telling m things I cannot understand, due to my lack of fluency in Goose. After a while, he wanders on about his business, complaining about the younger generation of geese and how easy they have things, unlike when he was their age.

With the Cobrachickens safely on their way to file a complaint, Toni will eventually catch up. Her hound heritage is only three-quarters that of William’s, so her concern in the dawn is more to keep an eye on me than to discover what amazing new smells have arisen with the new day.

My morning walks aren’t as extensive as I like, due to my reluctance to stray too far from the coffeepot, as well as the ongoing limp and the need to start the day’s work. Some days, I wander out the drive and halfway down the lane, seeking a deer track, the smell of a bear, or signs of a wayward coyote. Some days it’s a struggle to get past the porch, although the doctors assure me that will change.

Each dawn, though, I have to stop and talk to God for a moment; whether I’m shivering in a blanket-like bathrobe, or swatting mosquitoes, every dawn has a memory or five of dawns past, painted across the sky like pink, orange, yellow and purple graffiti.

There were the hungry dawns when tugboats woke me up in a bad part of downtown Wilmington, and if I had coffee, it was made on a grill or purchased with change swept from a parking lot. There was the gray dawn when we saw a humpback whale feasting on a shoal of spots and Spanish mackerel, in a boat that looked awfully big until the waves crashed over the tuna tower. There were black, gray roaring dawns as hurricanes roared and water rose.

There was a strange dawn in Charleston with a good buddy when we watched our plans go awry; the sky was lemon yellow and clear that morning. There were red and orange and blue dawns when I watched the sun rise through windows of one newspaper or another, having worked all night, sometimes without realizing it, finishing a project or covering a forest fire.

There was a beautiful dawn when everything was indigo and green and black, as I slept on a picnic table in a rest area in the mountains.

There were bright or dreary or cold or steamy dawns when my father and I planned the day, or broke down the events of the night, coffee offering scant reassurance and strength for another day’s labors.

Among my most favorite dawns are the ones spent shivering in a deer stand or using a dime and a quarter to romance (or challenge) a squirrel into range, or turning off the paved road onto a rutted farm lane on the way to find a coyote or bobcat or fox dancing a waltz of regret at having been outthought by a human.

Then there are the ones where Miss Rhonda and start the day early together, for good reasons or bad, sharing our morning prayers and the plans for the day yet unborn.

Every dawn has some of those other dawns stitched into the fabric of its multicolored quilt. Every dawn starts with the reminder that on another dawn, those who loved the Lord found his tomb empty and his body gone.

Every dawn is another chance to live, laugh, learn and love as God paints another canvas with colors that will never be replicated, yet always offer solace from the night, and a promise that is never broken.

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