I am not a morning person.
Ask those who know me the best, and they might say that this is an understatement.
I find that I can fake my way through almost every conversation with some semblance of grace after about 9 am. Before that, I might as well be a caged lion who was recently prodded in the ass to play nice for crowds at the zoo. A Spanish bull charging after inebriated Pamplona youth has more charm than do I before my morning’s first cup of coffee.
It’s not that I don’t like the morning. It’s swell, I guess. I just have never functioned in any manner that would be regarded as socially acceptable before the dawn. I certainly respect the morning with great wonder, when I can wrap my head around it. The sunrise, especially from my kitchen window, glows brilliantly on the mountainside. It’s just that the sunset falls at a more reasonable time of day, one that I can appreciate with all of my facilities intact. “Wasn’t that a great sunset?” I might ask a friend, sitting on the deck, beer in hand, capping off a great day of this-or-that heroic feat of wonder. The grill is never involved with sunrise. Much less the beer. Or friends. At least those that know me best.
I once worked for an entire summer in the Northern Colorado Rockies as a breakfast cook. Ask me how I did it? Easy, on two accounts. First- I was the only one in the kitchen at 5:30 AM. Me, a pot of coffee, and Linda Wertheimer. Nobody to answer to. No chipper individuals prodding for my opinions of something that I could give a damn about before the crack of noon. Second- I had the afternoons free to do as I pleased, which most often also included sitting in some tranquil mountain meadow- beer in hand- sharing a sunset with friends. “Wasn’t that a great sunset?” we might all chip in.
Sunrise is preceded by cold. Sunset is released into twilight’s warm embrace. Sunrise is followed by the tedium of day. Sunset leads into the wild magic of nighttime.
How many alpine starts does it take before one becomes used to climbing at o-dark-thirty? The answer is, of course, none. Alpine starts will always be the worst invention ever. The only reason that we would even dream of leaving a tent, hut, or truck bed hours before the sun ponders waking is so that we might have something nice to talk about later that day… as we sit around watching the sunset. “It was a great climb,” we might say, adding little anecdotes to spice up a conversation that needn’t really be fleshed out, as the shared experience of a day in the mountains says more than our paltry words may dare. So, someone says the only thing that need be said.
“Great day, but look at that alpenglow… killer sunset.”
The same may be said of early morning starts to surf sessions. Terrible idea. The water is always coldest just before the dawn, as a man once said. Only the surfer knows the feeling. Of ice cream headache at dawn-patrol beach breaks.
And yet week in and week out, season after season, year after year, I have no problem practically leaping out of bed in anticipation of a day skiing. I am a different person. Not even born anew, it is as if my polar opposite has freed itself at the simple cue of Capilene waiting beside my bed. My joy is not even childlike. I am transcendent in my anxious awaiting of what magic the cumulus I saw lurking last night have left in my favorite haunts. Coffee seems to taste better when skiing waits at the tail end of the first cup. The music I blare seems more poignant than I would dare to remember.
We meet at the trail head, the parking lot, the front porch of the hut, half-cooled mug in hand, windows frosted, skins too cold to glue to bases, goggles fogged, the last dance of the fire’s smoky curl disappearing into the dawn so blue that it verges on mystery. The potential is enormous. The feelings are mutual. We are sharing the morning with as much eager excitement that can be harnessed. The cold is non existent. Just before we moxy up to the ascent through 14 inches of what Le Rouge is calling “the good dry stuff,” someone fulfills the mandatory roll of putting into words the unbearable beauty of the day’s greeting of orange glow reflecting off of the alpine snowfields that beg our arrival.
“What a sunrise.”