4am, give or take a minute, is generally when my day now begins. For some people it is just impossibly early. For me, and other early-risers, it’s like no other time of day. Maybe beyond great even, and not just because the workday ends earlier. I’ve done mornings in a half-dozen different cities, but the world at that time always strikes me with a similar curious majesty. A quietness is in the air, and you don’t have to live on the outskirts to experience it. The earth seems to be coming alive with the same slow casualness most of us do upon first waking up. She’s taking it slow, getting psyched for the game ahead. In Winter, there isn’t even the hint of the sunrise to come. It really may be “always darkest just before the dawn.” A stillness accompanies the dark. Distant traffic noise is only occasional, and a single vehicle’s sound from afar conveys more information; you hear a lumbering delivery truck shift through the gears, tires swishing as they traverse wet pavement, hissing hydraulics lifting and emptying a dumpster before it’s slammed back to the ground. Was it a mile away? A few blocks? The faint vibration of a freight train barely perceptible under my feet, but certainly there, no doubt. The whistle sounds like the locomotive is next door, yet I’ve rarely heard that train during the day. Or have I? Was it obscured by the constant humming of central a/c compressors that the daylight brings, the racket of the neighborhood kids, slamming car-doors, car alarms and horns, sirens or barking dogs? Sometimes even the dogs aren’t yelping at 4am, as though they too are in awe of the solemn peace of pre-sunrise. Sometimes. On clear days the stars and planets are more vivid, iridescent. Practically begging you to take notice and ponder our relatively infinitesimal place in the Universe. If you’re up early, bask in some of that feeling each morning. Be aware of it. Embrace it and take it to the job with you. It can change you. It reminds you not to sweat the small stuff, and oh yes my friend, it is all really “small stuff” in the long run. I’ll take the early shift any day, because it makes me feel among the first in line to set-off on the greatest adventure. Being here!