My kind sister sent me a link to a fun essay at the Millions, At Night, All Books Are Bright. The author borrows Anne Fadiman’s terms for morning person – lark – and night person – owl. As a lark, the author wonders what it would be like to be an owl and wanders his way through the things writers and readers of the owl persuasion have said about being up in the late hours in a pool of lamplight, turning pages or typing words.
I am a lark. My sister is an owl. We have always been thus even as kids. It seems as we get older I have become even larkier and she more owly. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because as adults we are freer to follow our natural inclinations.
In college I would stay up late on weekends as best I could but I would usually crash around midnight. Sure, I’ve pulled a few all-nighters during finals a time or two but the only thing that kept me going was caffeine and fear of failure.
During the years when Bookman worked at Barnes and Noble he would often close on Friday nights which meant he wouldn’t be home until close to midnight. I’d relish these evenings, crawling into bed around 7 after consuming a cup of coffee, and then reading until the words on the page ceased to make sense sometime around 11 or 11:30. These days even with a cup of coffee I am lucky to make it past 9:30.
Thankfully Bookman is a lark too. I don’t know how I’d be able to manage living with an owl, someone would always be grumpy early or late. But we are both up at 5:30 in the morning on weekends during the summer and happy as larks, so to speak. I hate the heat that summer brings but I love the long days and on weekends when my time is my own the day stretches out beautifully with lots of reading time, morning and afternoon. I used to miss being able to stay up late on Friday nights reading, but give me my reading chaise, a cup of coffee and an afternoon snack, and oh, I don’t miss that nighttime reading at all.
I must admit there is something alluring to reading late at night and the Millions essay captures it marvelously. But I think the owls have had too much say about why late nights are better. Under the influence of owlish gushing, I have found myself wondering what I might be missing. But thinking about the late nights I have had I realize I have missed nothing. I much prefer the early mornings, the dawn just starting to show herself, the dew and quiet lying heavy all around. The quality of light in the early morning is so crisp and sparkling and the air clean and fresh. I love it when I can sit quietly and feel and hear the world begin to stir. I’ve never been one for reading first thing in the morning or doing much of anything unless it’s drinking coffee or eating breakfast. I much prefer to just be for a little while, to allow myself to feel the world spin. Then around 6:30 or 7 I am ready to start doing stuff, reading, writing, browsing online, sometimes chores around the house. And when I stop and think, wow it must be so late and discover that it is only 10:30 I get a little thrill, so much of the day still to go, so much time to enjoy.
When 9:00 at night arrives I crawl happily into bed, pick up a book and read for 20 minutes or so before turning off the light for sleep. It’s been a long day. It’s been a satisfying day. Let the owls have the night. They don’t know what they are missing.