Early mornings are friendly. At least that’s been my experience. Out of all segments of time in a day, early mornings are the most open, most encouraging, the most attuned to my needs, even as they feel like an ambiguous portion of time, a privacy before the literal dawning of a new day.
‘Even in Marakesh,’ Robert Bly writes in his poem “Morning in Marakesh”,
‘we still have to decide
What morning is. During the night people
We hadn’t even met whispered in our ears
Thoughts that would have changed our lives,
Might have, if we had heard them earlier.
So the dreamer never gives up.’
I’m sitting in the silvery grey of post-dawn twilight in my parents’ house, listening to the groans and cymbals of the kitchen orchestra—I exaggerate of course, but at this time of morning, when the mynahs are sending out their first tweets, before most of the virtual tweets are even formed, all sounds are introduced as if for the first time, brand new in the world, extra sharp, super defined, and suddenly exotic. The clashing of plates and cups once the sun is fully out would be just that: clashing. But in these secret pockets of time, in the magic between dawn and slightly after dawn, the mundane is converted into its highest potential, its most polished, luminous form. My mother’s plate-arranging is a sacred orchestra, okay perhaps a quintet; the drizzle gently splashing on the rooftop is a popup waterfall. We’re in mythical time, time that creates and keeps creating, hectic with creative energy. It’s possible to see stars in a cup of coffee. And to feel the pulse of the next creation about to be born. For me, it’s poems or stories. For you, well, what could it be?
In the mornings—let me be specific: I’m talking about that time of day before the day has become a day, before everyone starts scrolling for news and praise and gossip and motivational quotes—the air is thinly edged with a chilliness not commonly known on the Malaysian climate palette and in this mild shudder-inducing coolness, there’s still so much leftover time to finish dreams that couldn’t be completed in sleep. “I love the silent hour of night,” Anne Brontë writes, “for blissful dreams may then arise, revealing to my charmed sight what may not bless my waking eyes.” I’d take this further and add that what blesses my dream-sight spills into my waking-sight, and that dreams are not always blissful.
No, these are not necessarily big grand dreams of success and wonderment; not necessarily sweet airy otherworldly dreams. The word ‘dream’ is related to the proto-Germanic ‘draugmas’ which means “deception, illusion, phantasm.” (etymonline.com) ‘Dream’ often gets imbued with mumbo jumbo associations, maybe because the Old English meaning for dream also carries “joy, mirth, noisy merriment”, and when you place “illusion” with “merriment” you’re dangerously close to woo-woo visions. Ah, that’s it—visions. Dreams are visions had while sleeping. And visions, as you know, can be of anything. So, I mean any kind of dream at all (including ethereal, esoteric ones). They can be nasty, cold sweat-giving dreams. Last night, for example, I dreamt I was in a classroom, announcing with what looked like impressive confidence, my teaching philosophy that was going to erupt my students’ boredom in a heartbeat. My dream-students weren’t impressed. One of them made a list of reasons why this would not be possible, and gave compelling proof for his theory. I woke up feeling the dream hadn’t quite ended, that something in it was begging to be finished in the physical world.
So, I continued to dream, with eyes open, which is much easier in the early mornings. I dreamt again about the possibility of these fears dissolving, and what this would look like in physical, waking life. I envisioned images of myself, drained of all that withers me from the inside out. So many tiers of dreaming, I thought, so many subsets. The dreams of the night are the passionate cousins, the wild relatives of the dreams we have during the day.
Just before bed I had listened to Dharma teacher Tara Brach’s talk on working with beliefs that shrink us, that steal joy and basic peace of mind. The talk ended with a practice for inquiring into them. “What would you be if you didn’t believe this belief?” she asked in her forgiving voice. A realisation shot through my body just as I was feeling the first callings of sleep. What freedom, I thought, I felt. What space.
In the early morning, the secrets of the night are still fresh. You’re given clues, inspiration, nudges this way or that, like all good friends do. During the night, we are whispered to, as Robert Bly tells us, and we continue to hear these whispers. The dreamer, it is true, never gives up.
- Read “Morning in Marakesh” here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=40509