26 December 2012

Early Mornings

(a story... sort of)

It seems mildly insane to be up and about in the dark on Christmas morning. But I saw her.

I couldn't help seeing her. It had actually snowed, and this morning, even at 5, the cloud cover reflecting off the drifted snow, the street lamps and a few Christmas lights interspersed between them, created a gray early morning paleness that usually only crept up after 8 a.m. Shapes were clearly visible, their silhouettes outlined against the dusky white that blanketed our little neighborhood. Occasionally the lights of a passing car revealed light flakes of still-falling snow. In some places the clouds—light at their centers and gradually darkening to nothingness at the edges—broke, exposing the utterly black winter night sky. The moon had been full the night before, and it cast a pale sheen behind them.

So I saw clearly as she emerged from her house, a small black-clad figure, crossed to a sidewalk and began to march through the snow, her arms pumping back and forth. Such purpose on a morning when every other intelligent adult (with the choice) would choose to burrow under covers until the daylight comes or the kids stampede upstairs to the tree.

Even if I hadn't seen her, I would have known who it was. We'd never exchanged words, but her days started as early as mine did, and when I would grope around in my dark kitchen for breakfast before leaving for work, I would hear her door shut and her feet carry her past my house, on up our steep hill to wherever she took herself to work out. Sometimes jogging. Sometimes walking. Always early. Usually dark.

But even this morning? When no one had to be to work (thank goodness) or school or... wherever it was she spent her time every day?

She crunched only softly, through last night's drifts and the previous week's hard-packed snowfall. I watched her from my window, the house silent around me, the world outside completely still except for the sounds of her booted feet making tracks down her usual exercise route.

I shivered a little, despite the house heater and the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights behind me. So cold outside, even with the cloud cover. And she was just wearing shorts, I noticed as she passed in front of my house. Shorts with some thermals underneath them. So, she meant to sweat. No toning the workout down even a notch for the holiday. A thinnish fleece sweater dwarfed her small figure, at least, and a huge knitted hat hid her head and her hair.

Just as well, I thought, that her clothing should so distort her figure. Not that perps tended to get up this early on December 25th either.

Maybe she knew that and that's why she came out in the freezing dark. That would be a good reason, right?

She did not turn her head in any direction, stared straight ahead and bobbed through the drifts, crunched through the thinner snow, and picked her way carefully where yesterday's sun had melted enough that only ice remained. Great for the lower abs and the lungs, no doubt, this snow-trekking.

In the dark. By herself. So exhaustingly early.

Maybe that was it. The snow offered the greatest resistance before daylight mushed it. That would make sense, right?

I watched her as she continued up the street, walking with a speed that insulted the leisure of the holiday.

And wondered what the drive was that wouldn't let her slow down. Wouldn't let her enjoy Christmas dinner without making sure she'd done something to burn it off first. Wouldn't let her sleep in for fear that the day would get away from her. Would send her out into the snow at such an unearthly hour, just to make sure she kept her routine as normal as possible for the holiday. Even with nowhere to go and nothing else to do for the rest of the day.

Another shiver crept up my spine as I watched her sink into another snowdrift and kick herself free, her shoulders hunched tight against the cold. Shook my head. Felt mildly sorry for her. Then watched as she worked her way over the lip of our hill before I realized that the microwave had beeped full minutes ago and I'd have to reheat my breakfast.


  1. This person is most definitely not me. I wish I had that kind of motivation! The picture is beautiful.


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