A morning walk allows for meditation and reflection -- even in summer's intense heat and winter's biting cold. The times when it is just right -- like these early days of fall -- you get inspiration from seeing your neighborhood begin to stir.
At the confluence of Milledge Avenue, Lumpkin Street and Milledge Circle, the all-nighters are refueling, grabbing a snack to settle the system or having a hangover-thwarting, full-blown breakfast at the Waffle House. When it comes to hangovers, which fortunately I don't have anymore, I always remember entertainer Phil Harris's line about people who don't drink. "Can you imagine," he said, "getting up in the morning and knowing that is the best you are gonna feel all day?"
Taking leave of the Five Points neighborhood -- which is familiar even to out-of-towners, owing to their matriculation at the university or visits to the Classic City for various reasons -- I pass fraternity and sorority houses as I move up Milledge Avenue. There are no lights on in the fraternity and sorority houses, which makes me think of the Christmastime storyline, "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
Sleeping late! What a blissful staple of youth -- youth who would never believe that the day will come when they won't need an alarm clock. I enjoy waking up early. Read the paper with a cup of coffee and -- hallelujah! -- I'll be building fires within a fortnight to add to my enjoyment in starting the day. A wood-burning fireplace is one of life's greatest pleasures.
The combination of our economy and the technical era has taken its toll on newspapers, but thankfully they are still in business, although papers are becoming Twiggy-like, getting thinner and thinner. This reminds me of a comment by the late Georgia coach and personality Bill Hartman, who once said of the old Athens Banner-Herald: "When I want to go to bed with nothing on my mind, I read the Banner-Herald." He was referring to a time when the paper had little more than a couple of Associated Press wire stories, considerable advertising and the funny papers. I am not fulfilled without my fire, my coffee and reading today's Banner-Herald, a very fine newspaper. Then I have my walk.
As you walk by some houses, you see lights flicker on as residents are beginning their day. Someone's making coffee, someone has the remote, searching for the early morning news.
For years, there has been a hoot owl sounding off most mornings. Or is it a parliament (look it up, a group of owls is known as a parliament, but don't ask me why)? I hear him (or them) close to my house. I hear hooting sounds a mile away, making me wonder whether there a mating call in the mix. Many owls are said to be endangered, but morning walks through my neighborhood suggest they are anything but.
If you walk before daylight and someone is walking their dog, it is a great source of comfort to see them on a leash -- including ladies who own a couple of mutts, that seem to be always straining on their leashes. You keep wary eyes on dogs in the dark, even those that are tethered.
You find a multiplicity of people who stir before daylight. Two coeds jogging. Middle-aged women walking, sometimes a twosome, sometimes a gangsome. A senior citizen or two whose pace is more measured than others. Cyclists whizzing by. Big trucks lumbering along.
This amalgamation of people and things on a busy street give way to the solitude of the back streets, where there is a comingling of hoot owls and stimulation for a new day. Makes me happy that I can't sleep late anymore, although I sometimes regret, too, that "youth is wasted on the young."
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.