Dawn: The 24-Hour Reset


“I’ve always liked the time before dawn because there’s no one around to remind me who I’m supposed to be, so it’s easier to remember who I am.” Brian Andreas


I’m often outside before the sun comes up. If I leave the house when it’s still dark, by the time I reach the top of my street, a salmon-colored streak has broken through the blue-black sky and the heavy clouds, a lava crack. My eyes fixed on the horizon, I barely notice the sound of my soles thumping the sidewalk that slopes down the hill into Mystic. It’s quiet at this hour, especially when it’s 28 degrees. A runner. Another walker. A few cars. I take a left on Gravel Street – and there’s the Mystic River. I like it best on windless mornings, when the surface mirrors the sky, and the waterfowl have an easier time dipping and diving for their breakfast. The humans may be dormant, but the Canada geese, mallards, merganzers, and cormorants are fastidiously fueling up for the day.

I work my way north, with houses, woods, and rock ledges on the left, and the river and expanse of sky on my right. I’m bundled in thermal pants, a puffy coat, hat, scarf, and mittens, but I move quickly to stay ahead of the cold. A full morning of writing pulls me…Yet, I have to stop here and there to face the river, to take in the pink and gray and purple and yellow and white clouds: how do artists get these colors right? The hues change so quickly, like time-elapsed photography. Only my mind and body are still.

Soon enough, like the drifty clouds and the industrious birds, my mind shifts. Fade out meditative observation; fade in concrete thought. I mentally review what I wrote the day before and filter through various scenarios as to where the story is heading. One character needs to work himself out of a bind and another one faces a torturous decision. Potential solutions line up like the bare trees on the side of the road.

At this point in the walk, I’ve reached the I-95 overpass, which is where I turn around. (Don’t let this ugly, urban, noisy image destroy the scene I’ve set. Sometimes, we need a smelly bus to drive by for us to appreciate the fresh air we breathe in its absence.) The sun has conquered the ridge on the far shore. The day is officially beginning – and, as with my manuscript, anything is possible. This reset every twenty-four hours helps me let go of the mistakes I made the day before and gives me courage about today’s actions and words. Like a runner at the start of a race, I have the same chance as everybody else to win. Win or lose, tomorrow’s walk along the river is just a day away.


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