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Allan Jenkins: Why I wrote a book about the dawn

I spent midsummer in northern Norway and came to know that night isn't the absence of light.

It started as a simple call to wake a little earlier, maybe when the songbirds sing and the sun sits near the horizon. Not every day for everyone. 


A small book in praise of dawn and creating a silent place.  A call to occasionally free yourself from the demands of work or other obligations. This thing that is the life we lead. A small call to be creative sometime. Time to be yourself. 


I have walked and talked with other early risers. Writers and painters and priests. It was not to be a book about packing more work hours into the day, joining the alpha bankers and businessmen at 4am while the rest of us sleep. It is a piece in praise of choice. Of swimming in the sea at night if you want, standing on a hill at sunrise or quietly reading a book. 


I wanted to understand why early morning means so much to me. I spent midsummer in northern Norway and came to know that night isn't the absence of light. There is a morning in midnight sun. You feel it when you walk and watch. It is there when songbirds wake, when wild orchids open, when sea eagles fly. I returned north for the equinox, when days and nights are equal for a moment before the sunrise dies and icy winter wins. 

I joined morning prayer as dawn lifted over the Yorkshire Dales. I celebrated the new day with Muslim and Hindu communities. I danced with deities. I sowed seed in the dark, I learned about owls and the dawn chorus. I watched morning bird migration. I looked at science and philosophy and the spirituality of morning - the three human strands of understanding. I studied a little of circadian rhythms and chronotypes and why I am a “lark” - one of the 10-15 per cent whose sleep rhythm starts extra early. 


I walked with dawn in Denmark, watched swallows dance and saw them disappear. I heard hunters. I climbed sunlit cliffs in East Cork and saw kittiwakes gathering for winter at sea. I sat on an empty beach in Corsica and watched the dawn sea and sky separate. I spent the night in a light installation, observed prayer in a monastery. I came to understand why religions mark this moment. I learnt that the Christian day starts in the night and builds to morning resurrection. I felt the sacred in silence.


Mostly I sat by my window at home at dawn. I looked and listened and learned more of how and who I am. I watched the world wake. 


I am not a dawn Pied Piper urging you to insomnia. I am not calling for you to cut your precious sleep. Perhaps though, sometimes, go to bed a little earlier, get up when the sun does. Give yourself the gift of time. Join the human larks and the blackbirds. Start with a morning a month, work up to once or twice a week. But try to keep it special if you can. Turn over your page, read the science and the philosophy, the wisdom of the bird watchers. 

“I learned to live more in my heart than my head, connected more to feelings than thought.” 

It has been a year now of waking with the songbirds, of rediscovering home in the dark. I found freedom in other senses. My eyes and ears have adjusted. I am at home in the dark, maybe a fox more than a lark. 


I have adjusted my sleep, protected myself more: from ceaseless news and other media. I have gathered myself. Discovered more about me. Learnt to trust. In my instincts, my voice. I have connected with the natural world outside and inside. 


I have freed myself from my phone. I learned to live more in my heart than my head, connected more to feelings than thought. I found peace in quiet. I am a creature of the dawn, an initiate into nature. I discovered the morning in me. 

There is no trick to it, no technique. Except sometimes to go to sleep when you are tired. Try it. Join us. Tomorrow is waiting. Make your morning more magical. If I can do it anyone can.


Morning: How to Make Time by Allan Jenkins is out now. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @allanjenkins21

Edited By Hole & Corner