It’s early morning here at the ranch and I feel, for some reason, like talking about it.
Because this time of day, the space when the sun has not quite risen, where the coffee is brewing, my husband is searching for his socks and the kids are slowly rolling waking up in the cocoons of their bedrooms, have been some of the most serene and precious moments in my life.
As I wander around the house, cleaning up dishes from the night before, filling my coffee cup and taming my hair, I stop by each window to take a peek at how the horizon decided to make an appearance today. Sometimes it comes dancing in wearing ravishing bright pinks and golds and purples with streaks of fluffy clouds reflecting its light.
Sometimes it’s quiet against a clear sky turning the crisp grass silver and making the frost on the trees glisten.
And sometimes it’s hidden under a blanket of rain clouds or comes up with the snow that has been falling all night.
But it doesn’t matter, I always look, bending down slightly as I rinse a dish in the sink or watch the horses in the pasture below me as I brush my teeth in the bathroom. In those moments, when the sunrise wakes with me, I catch myself in a smile I put on without an effort, without even being fully awake…
These were how my mornings were growing up. As country kids who lived miles from our school we had to wake up early… way before the sun. Dad would knock on our doors and swing them open. “It’s time to wake up, girls.” And as my older sister and I would roll over to catch a few more blinks, my little sister across the hall would bounce up, always prepared, always on time, eager to get to the last bowl of Frosted Flakes.
And somewhere between waiting on the bathroom, pulling on my favorite Levis, fixing my ponytail and shuffling to the kitchen for breakfast while my mom sat on the other side of the counter chatting quietly and sipping her coffee, I got used to the idea of a new day as the sun slowly lit up the trails beneath the dark oak trees that surrounded our house.
It was in those mornings at the ranch, waking one another gently, getting ready for the day together, that we were our best family. We knew for certain that morning after morning, Dad would be there to open the door to our bedrooms and let the light from the hallway flood in; we knew Mom would have our cereal out on the counter; we knew when the small yellow bus would come bouncing down the road; and we knew who would be saving us a seat when we boarded.
What we didn’t know was what was going to happen in the between-hours as the sun made her way to the horizon, up over our heads and back down again. We didn’t know what we might learn, or what or who might come into our lives unannounced. We didn’t know if tears would fall over a failed test or a missed shot. We didn’t know when an opportunity might arise or that a love might be blossoming in the hallways of our schools.
But we walked through the day with the memory of that morning, the sound of our father’s voice rising us from our dreams, the taste of sugared cereal on our lips, the smell of our mother’s coffee and we knew that no matter how the day turned on us, the sun would rise and we could start from that familiar and safe place again tomorrow.
In times of uncertainty and angst, cancer and COVID and a general feeling of doubt lingering in the air, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of providing a safe and familiar rhythm in our home — for my children, of course, but for my husband and I as well. To know that home is a safe haven, and that it’s not a promise everyone is given, makes me cherish it even more.
And the home that we built with large windows facing the east where the sun rises every morning is a reminder to me, in the good times and the bad, that the waking up will always be worth it.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.