5:30 a.m. on a rainy morning in late August is a very different proposition from 5:30 a.m. on a sunny morning in early July.
On Wednesdays my sister and I meet for breakfast. We catch up with news about each other’s families, and my sister, who is the maven of the family, brings me up to date on news of various cousins and the few remaining aunts. We used to meet at 7:00 a.m. on her day off, which was Wednesday, but since she was elected to the office of Town Clerk in her town, my sister doesn’t have days off, and has to be into work by 8:00. And she lives ten miles away.
So we meet at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesdays, and my Common Life takes place, on Wednesdays, according to when I wake up. For the past several weeks, I haven’t been waking up before 5:30, which leaves me just enough time to thrown on some clothes and make it to the breakfast-and-lunch place where we meet; and I do my Common thing after breakfast.
But on Tuesday night, I slept badly. I’m not sure why, but I was wide awake at 3:00 a.m., and by 4:00 I decided just to go ahead and start the day. Normally the sound of falling rain is a surefire soporific, but I can’t afford soporifics on Wednesdays; so it made more sense to get up, get dressed, and get out the door.
By 5:00 a.m. I had gotten my cup of coffee at Dunkin’s, and decided to park under a street light to see if it was adequate for reading my prayer book. It wasn’t. I ended up saying my prayer rope for 40 minutes, which isn’t a bad way at all to pass time, with the rain pouring all around me, which was a good thing; I would have felt awkward about not getting out for a walk if it had been dry, but after the experience on August 6, there’s no way I’m getting onto the Common before sunrise, not without two or three other idiots hardy souls to keep me company.
What struck me about this experience was that even in the dark, even in the rain, there’s a Common Life. I couldn’t believe the volume of traffic at that hour of the morning. Due to its structure, the Common is not in any sense a secondary road; cars have to go around it to get onto even a tertiary road, one that feeds into a secondary road. But about six cars passed by my parked car as I sat there, on my side of the Common, and I lost count of the cars going by on the other side. The main street, too, was a steady stream of both cars and trucks, some of them 18-wheelers.
At around 5:15, the lights of the orphanage kitchen came on, and you could see the nuns and their helpers gearing up for another day. I was reminded of the little nun I had seen on a couple of occasions, between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. at high summer, who would stroll around the grounds reading her breviary; I felt a certain kinship with her because it was so obvious that the only way she could face the day before her was to fortify herself with prayer. I wonder what she does when it rains, or when the snows fall; is she allowed to stay in her room to say her prayers? And come to think of it, why should she have to perform this exercise by herself? Don’t the other nuns also have breviaries to read? Or does she just need to get out and move while she reads, while the others are able to stand in one place for their prayers?
All part of Common life….