6:47 AM

By Kate Brennan

Wearing my favorite wool sweater, I walk out into the brisk morning. Stacked houses are sparsely lit in the distant hills like rows of candlesticks in quiet temples.

The streets are empty at this hour, aside from myself and the occasional joggers who go by panting, mountain air cleansing their swelling lungs. How alive they must feel, I think to myself, with their cold sweat and pounding hearts.

I’ve always found comfort in early mornings when everything is fresh. So many beautiful ways the world folds and unfolds itself like a paper swan, and I am the only one around to watch.

By the time I arrive on campus, light is seeping into the hearts of trees where birds nest in shadowy bunches of green and a few yellow leaves blossom like small lemons. The tree bark is weathered like the spines of old books in the library, where the sun is just beginning to paint the top-floor windows in coppery light, not yet reaching the sculpted arches above the creaky wooden door.

Glowing bulbs sit like ravens atop brick walls as I walk along the stone pathway lined in wheatgrass that is cut short and swaying in the breeze like frayed ends of rope. The breeze hits my exposed knees through strands of ripped denim, raising goosebumps on my skin.

I am blinded by sunbeams filtering through the glass of a rooftop greenhouse. The pyramidal structure reminds me of the Louvre, which I’ve only seen in photographs.

I wonder if early mornings in Paris are anything like this. It’s strange to think that in six hours, this same sun will wash over balconies and iron tables for coffee cups, ashtrays and croissant flakes to bake in its warmth. 

What a wonderful thought it is that my face is bathing in that same sunlight that, this very morning, will drench the fresh ink of French newspapers as they lay unopened on leaf-littered sidewalks an ocean away.

Paris is just a fleeting thought—typical of mornings in solitude. I drift back to the present as clouds pump out of smokestacks in buildings downtown, trailing upward against a background of distant violet mountains like tribal smoke signals. It’s the urban language for industry, progress—the cold, blade-like sharpness of early mornings.

Through sinking eyelashes, I glance out at white wisps of light and yellow flickers in the hills, drawing me further. As I walk uphill toward my favorite lookout point, I see the old factories and the blue lake painted on the “Salt City” postcards I sent my friends.

And there are so many rooftops. So many rooftops blocking so many sleeping heads from the world as it paints itself in the early hours. Cold blue and passionate sweeps of pearl pink, and birds that swim through it all with a freedom I ache for.

No amount of hurt can ever reach me here. Time is slow enough to daydream but fast enough to make me breathe deeply, so as to savor the pine and crawling ivy as they are dusted with the first flecks of October gold.

What a thing to be alive for.

Kate Brennan was born and raised by the Jersey Shore. As a newspaper & online journalism major, she loves writing, as well as rock climbing, snowboarding and coffee.