Today I began an earlier shift that requires me to be awake before 5AM. As most anyone who knows me knows, I am someone who is quite naturally a bit of an insomniac, who finds it fear easier to stay up late at night than it is to appreciate the morning. Although some poets  have been immensely fond of the early morning with its suggestions of the beginning of glorious day, in order to start the day off with reflection and creation, I tend to be an author of the dark night, writing of the horrors that leave a soul unable to rest in peace in the depths of sleep, and who fight against the approaching darkness rather than welcoming it as a beloved friend.
So far, there is a lot to appreciate about working an earlier schedule, aside from the fact that it requires me to go to bed at a reasonably early hour, which is a terribly difficult thing to do. There are a lot of ironies about driving around before 6AM. Among them is the fact that one hears advertisements from radio deejays about the importance of getting enough sleep at night, skeptically dealing with those who say that eight hours of sleep is unnecessary even as they shill for mattress companies (as if a comfortable mattress could induce a good night’s sleep for a restless mind that knows no rest) . Such radio commercials are ironic enough when done for those who are drowsily driving on their way to work in rush hour traffic, and they are even more ironic when playing at 5:45AM to those few who are driving around before the rest of the world awakes.
Given my sleeping habits, it is not too surprising that I do not tend to see the glorious dawn bursting forth very often. Even on a morning like this, though, when I did wake up early, I was greeted to Portland’s 99 shades of gray coloring the sky with subtle distinctions, but no sunlight to peek through except behind the cover of clouds. Both yesterday evening and this morning I was reminded of the feeling I got when visiting Vermont during the summer four years ago this week, with the lead-gray skies over verdant hills and valleys, the promise of drizzle and rain for a land longing for the sun. It is funny, I suppose, how our memories and experiences are connected together in larger stories and narratives, and how even something as simple as the shade of color in a sky can remind one of the lengthy trail one has taken only to see the same sorts of things wherever one goes. For it rains on both the just and the unjust, after all.
Since my youth, I have loved a song that as good as any represents my own relationship with sleep and with the world of sleepers. As was the case for Roger Hodgson when he wrote “The Logical Song,” “There are times when all the world’s asleep; the questions run too deep for such a simple mind.” Little children often harshly rebel against the coming of sleep, especially if it causes them to miss what is going on the world of adults around them that is of great fascination even if it cannot always be well understood. For those of us that are older, if not necessarily wiser, we still rebel against sleep, or sleep flees from us, the results being the same even if the blame is different. For those of us that do not wish to get ourselves asleep with sleeping pills and then wake ourselves up with caffeine, we simply have to deal with the way the mind works when it tries to understand what life is like when one is working while the world sleeps under lead-gray skies, seeking to find niches and avoid the push of too many people through too few good roads, even if one is still getting too little sleep.
 Most notably, William Stafford, who wrote an entire book dedicated to early morning odes.
 See, for example: