It’s 4:40 a.m. and my day begins. Sometimes I want to be coerced by my pillow to return my head to it. But even while the warmth of my bed is pleasing, especially because of the cold outside, at this time in the morning I am looking for something more fulfilling. So I descend from my top bunk and prepare as I prepare each morning: teeth, contacts, push-ups, laces.
Three flights of stairs later I am at the dorm entry door. It presents me with a false compromise as if capitulation were really an option. I go out.
The morning air greets me, swirling about my legs and up over my chest before pulling me forward with it, asking for a good run. A few lights glow in Wilson (my college), Butler and down Shapiro walk at Whitman College. Perhaps they belong to others who have risen or those who could not quite get to the switch last night. All of that and much of the University is increasingly behind me as each stride down Washington Road takes me further into the dark. The last building I see is the boathouse. It stands as an illuminated bastion welcoming the incoming and a point of departure for the outgoing, casting its perpetually fleeting shadow on the water.
When I step onto the trail that parallels Lake Carnegie, the only light provided is what the moon can give me. I like the darkness. It asks that I trust myself and be in the moment. One cannot see too far ahead, and one is never entirely sure of what has passed. This is why I left my pillow.
Much of the time the only sound is the beat of my pace, and occasionally a low woody susurrus. From time to time though a human voice breaks through from a megaphone. “Come on boys push harder.” or “Stroke faster” as the crew coach coaxes on the rowers. I welcome the unsanctioned race. Surely they “win” yet my personal victory does not need to be trumped by “loss.”
Six or so miles out, I turn to retake the steps I have laid. I feel like a better fated Phaethon as I return with the light of day on my heels. Back on campus, after the gym, it is time to untie my laces and slip on loafers. The rest of the day will not be so physical, but there will be no fewer pillows to rise from, no less murkiness to confront, with the hope of a final clarity.