Morning Appreciation

There seems to be something in the air lately.  Actually, maybe a better way to put it is there is something that's not in the air.  My point is the cleanliness of the air in the mornings as I'm leaving for work.  Much of the winter has our night air punctuated with the smell of smoke from woodstoves.  Apparently not so much now.  The air in the morning has been smelling freshly washed.

I first noticed the quality of the air one morning when I left the house on my way to work.  I just happened to take a deep, lung-filling breath on my way to my car.  Ahhh.  At first it was nothing more than the air quality itself.  ("Wow, the air really smells clean this morning!")  Then I added an appreciation for the morning stillness and the lack of sounds.  Now when I walk out of the house in the dark hours of the morning I have been making it a point to stop and notice what's around me in the darkness.

I notice the absolute stillness of the quiet morning.  The absence of car engines, no dogs barking, no airplanes in the distance--It's almost as if everyone's house lights would suddenly snap on if I made a noise of any kind.  It's almost a shame to have to start my car and spoil the serenity.

Sometimes I'll stop halfway down the driveway and stand, and other times I'll pause before getting into my car.  Either way, while I'm standing there taking in the cool, sweet air, I look around.

If I look up on a cloudy morning there will, of course, be no stars to see.  Instead, I'll scan the clouds that are only slightly visible in the barely glowing morning sky, and to the dark shadows of the towering evergreen trees that ring our neighborhood.  Occasionally, there will be breaks in the clouds, and I'll look to see how many stars wink at me through the openings.

When the sky is clear I can't help but notice the stars because they're shining like pinholes of bright light through a dark curtain.  The giant evergreens are a little more than the usual dark ghosts when they are lit by the dim starlight.  They have the tiniest glow along one edge where the almost imperceptible light touches them.

When the moon is shining everything is different.  My favorite is a sharp, crescent moon.  There is something about the hard edges and pointed ends of tiny moon that makes me stare.  Maybe it's something to do with the man-in-the-moon stories and the various artworks from children's books--something I've always liked.  Depending on the quality of the night sky, I can sometimes even see a dim outline of the remainder of the moon that's hidden in shadow of a crescent moon.  I like that too.  When the moonlight casts a bright light the whole world takes on a different look.  Everything is lit in blueish-grey and the trees have a muted sheen where the moon's glow touches them.

I don't often see a full moon in the morning--at least I haven't since my latest appreciation for the stillness of the morning has become apparent.  I know there is a strange feeling when I'm outside under a full moon though.  There is something about the light.  It's all at once yellowish, blueish, grayish, and muted white.  When I'm out in the light of a full moon it's like nature's spotlight and everything around me is watching me intrude on the quiet serenity.

Even on the mornings when its rainy I'll usually still find something to like about it.  Obviously, I won't be able to stop very long and take lung-filling breaths of air without getting wet, but I still notice the rain-washed cleanliness of the morning air.  The sound of water is almost imperceptible unless it's pouring.  When you get away from houses all you can hear is the faint sound the drops make as they splash against the ground or fall from leaf to leaf through the trees.

Oh, the fog!  There have been many foggy mornings that have imprinted on my memory.  Morning fog turns the ordinary into the mysterious.  The plain, garish light that shines over the street and out from porch lights is now transformed into hazy cones of grey or pinkish-orange.  The foggy air is so good to breathe!  Deep breaths on a foggy morning are almost therapeutic.  Years ago when I used to run every morning, those were my favorite mornings to run in.  Breathing wet, foggy air feels good.

I'll save my favorite for last.  The windy mornings.  When I step out into the night and close the door of the house on a windy morning, I treasure the sound.  Trees, normally the silent sentinels, are at once whispering and screaming.  The rise and fall of their whooshing sound coming from so high up in the dark sky is strangely relaxing to me.  I like to stare intently at the silhouettes of them to see if I can tell how hard they are being blown by the breezes.  I have always loved to be in a windstorm, and even if I'm not actually in a storm, the windy trees in the morning darkness tend to simulate one.

I do treasure nature's solitary moments sometimes.

Personal Dignity

Dignity. We think about it very seldom as we're growing up. The word dignity just isn't something that is a part of our regular day to day world. When we try to define dignity, we think of it as being synonymous with something like pride or leadership. Something like a captain on his ship--chin jutting outward, poised in a somehow stoic manner, and eyes focused on the distance to what might lie ahead. But like I said, thinking about dignity is not usually part of our day.

But, the lack of dignity is a whole 'nuther thing. I think the lack of dignity is the reason for the word dignity. It's a form of measure. It's a good/evil or healthy/sick sort of thing. It's a relationship measure. You may not recognize it when you have it, but you sure realize it's absence if you're suddenly without it.

I thought about that yesterday as I leaned forward on my elbows over an exam table with my pants down. You can guess where the doctor's fingers were (I'm just assuming there were more than one--I didn't ask). Yes, I was getting an overdue physical. As most people know, men are bad about going to the doctor. We're raised with, "You're okay--quit crying" whereas women are raised with the general spirit of nurturing. Females seem to all have the knowledge and cool that they need to monitor their many bodily systems regularly. They seem to learn to do it regularly, starting at a young age, and are probably usually taught by example. Men: Not so much. We have to practically be dragged to the doctor. I would bet that any doctor probably has two different ways of speaking to patients: one for females and one for males. Anyway, back to me leaning on his table in a vulnerable manner. To add insult to injury, he provided the following dialogue (and I'm not making this up):

"Whoa, your prostate's enormous!" he exclaimed. "Do you have any trouble peeing?"

"Uh, a little slow to starting is all. Okay once I get going." I answered. I was concerned but not surprised.

"How many times a night do you get up to go?" he continued.

"None usually." I said.

"Oh, well, that's okay then. I guess we can't improve on that." he replied, finally turning and leaving me to put myself in order.

Trying to make light of the situation, I continued, "It's been quite a few years since I could pee a hole through a rock. The days of good velocity are well behind me. Anything I can do or take that can turn it around? A drug? Change of diet maybe?"

He shook his head as he continued to enter data into his computer. "With the cholesterol numbers as good as yours you'd be hard-pressed to change anything."

The potential loss of dignity sounds ominous. I'm only going to get older and things are only going to get worse. I thought about failures of body parts, functions, and systems. Any one of them could trigger the potential for massive mental anguish. It's no wonder that an old man might suddenly turn nasty and lash out at his loved ones. He's probably just been handed news from a doctor that is the inevitable human mortality call that we all hope never happened to us.  He may have just been handed the loss of personal dignity.

When Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend penned the words for My Generation maybe they had recently experienced someone going through that very thing.
"...hope I die before I get old..."
Fortunately, I'm still fine. Blood pressure could be better, and prostate is enlarged, but those are almost a given at my age. Aside from that, the heart: good. Lungs: good. Cholesterol: way good.

My personal dignity is still intact. I hope it stays that way.