When I am going well, I am up before dawn writing. I watch the sun rise through the window that sits before me. Through it, our neighborhood incrementally emerges from near-blankness. Our house sits on the outside corner of an L-shaped street; from my perch I can see down both sides of the street that comprises our tiny little eddy of a neighborhood. One way, the street runs about five houses down to where it meets another side street and ends, the other way goes about six or seven houses before it intersects busy Glendale Ave. Directly in front, I look squarely at the house on the inside of our corner; a chipping, peeling rental house in muddy browns and rusty reds. Randomly planted palm trees just behind the sidewalk grow untended like a parentless family in the crushed red granite of the yard. The words “Cactus Wren” float just below the branches of our mulberry tree, angled slightly because the silver post holding the street sign is out of plumb. In these early, swirling hours I sometimes hear the freight train’s whistle as it moves through the city some three miles away, but I don’t today. During the day I can watch the airliners coasting in to land at
Sky Harbor, often in pairs gently being led to the ground, like Noah’s in reverse. Right now, the sky is clear and quiet; it’s too early. Ark
|The view from the perch - sunrise|
They know it too, the birds. The day is here. It’s 5:47 a.m. Each house is now marked by sunlight. The black street itself holds patchy sunlight pools that widen with each added moment of time. A black cat strolls across the neighbor’s driveway, casually passing under the car and through a bunched stack of cans and containers tucked up by the garage door, leaping thoughtlessly to the top of the half-height chain-link fence before mysteriously and effortlessly changing its mind and dropping back down, like a slow drip, from the fence, and just as casually, strolling back through the containers and under the car again. Two grackles land in our yard, inspecting the grass intently: hunters. The edges between day and night have become clear, defined, blade-sharp. The brightness of the day bears down; shadows are forced to move, retreat, concede their territory. The light seems to be touching everything, even though there are still wide areas of shadow, mostly at ground level, or the sheltered sides of houses and fences. The metallic sheen of parked cars gleams harshly, even though the cars are old and beaten. A tilted trailer parked along the gutter of the road shines beyond new now. The same black cat scampers inside the chain fence, tail up but bent at the very end, hopping playfully several times before disappearing beneath the shade of a juniper. The movement of the birds has become constant, criss-crossing in front of our window, moving within the trees and along the ground.
It’s 6:23. The special time of the morning is almost over. From this point on, the sun will only increase in intensity; it will completely dominate the day. Shadow will shrink and huddle fearfully wherever it is, and the activity in the neighborhood will increase. The revelation of every detail will accelerate, be overwhelmed and become a blur. The newspaper sits in the driveway, wrapped in plastic, sending out its impulses to engage the day and the world, to separate me from my perch.