to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness
to ease us with warm touching
to hold us in great hands of light --
good morning, good morning, good morning."
- from Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
I was reading a lot of Mary Oliver while I was in Costa Rica. Early each morning, I walked up to the porch of the main building and sat at a small wooden table that overlooked the jungle and, in the distance, the ocean. Above my head, howler monkeys danced through the full trees, keeping one eye on me and the other eye on the berries they picked for breakfast. The lime-green parrots sang softly up to the bright morning sky and swooped from branch to branch, teasing the monkeys with their effortless flight.
On these mornings, while watching the monkeys and reading Mary Oliver, I noticed that I hadn't yet spoken to anyone. I hadn't done much of anything except steep my tea and sit down at the table. I became aware that at this time each early morning, I wasn't ready to speak; I wasn't ready to put myself into the world just yet. What became necessary was starting my day by taking in this lively little world around me, silently and gratefully. It was only after I observed what I needed to that I felt ready to commune with others. Most often it was my lovely teacher who joined me at the table, where we started a sweet tradition of discussing Mary Oliver and the day ahead.
Back in New York, I wake up early, sit at my table and listen to the city shuffle around me. The drone of traffic on Broadway, heels clicking on the sidewalk. Occasionally the city is already wide awake: jackhammers, laughter and shrieks from those just coming home after a night out. After some time it recedes, tiptoes over to the bed and slides back under the covers—there, drops of rain sprinkling the windows, wind moving through the sycamore trees. Small sounds I match to the cadence of my own breath. Quiet.
Through all of this, I've been wondering what it means to be ready. For me, I think it is recognizing that moment between welcoming the world in and deciding to put myself into it. That moment, when it arrives, seems ever-empty, stunningly clear. In that space, I understand I am but a small part of this wondrous little place and I can happily—and kindly—contribute to it.