Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dark Morning, the Secret Time

Dark morning. I first discovered it when I was a young boy in the 1950s. We were leaving for a family trip. My father woke me. “It’s time to get up,” he said.

“But it’s nighttime,” I said.

“No, it’s morning.”

“But it’s dark.”

“Yes, and it's morning.”

We drove into the darkness. I puzzled over the mystery. How could it be both dark and morning at the same time? Dark morning—it was the strangest thing I had ever heard of. I was astonished, fascinated, thrilled. I felt that I had been initiated into a great secret—one that, judging by the sparseness of the traffic, few others knew about. Dark morning was the secret time of day.

We drove on. It was a strange world, dark morning. Everything was closed, like on a Sunday, only more so—stores, gas stations, cafes, drive-ins, everything was closed and harboring shadows. Neon signs that were lit at night were dark now, and traffic lights did not cycle as usual, but flashed over lonesome intersections. And it was quiet. There was no roar of traffic, only the sound of our own car, or the occasional other car or truck we would meet—a Borden’s milk truck, for instance, moving alone down Rosedale. The milkman knew the secret, he too belonged to the brotherhood of this time.

On Lancaster, a blue neon donut appeared ahead in the darkness. We drew nearer. It was a donut shop, brightly lit, with people inside—the only place open in the world at this hour. We stopped at this island of light and my father went inside. He came back with a box of donuts. We drove on.

In a short time, we left Fort Worth and were on the open highway. Dark morning was darker out here, and it was a long time before we encountered another pair of headlights. After that, it was total darkness again. Lulled by the drone of car and road, I fell asleep. I woke up just as the sun was rising. I had seen sunset, but never this, the beginning of day, when shadows fade and the prairie turns grey, then orange and gold.

I would see dark morning again on other trips, and on Christmas morning. It continued to fascinate me. As was the case with so many childhood enthusiasms of mine, no one else understood. My parents were bemused when I asked them to wake me early so I could experience dark morning. Normally they did not get up at that hour, therefore declined.

But one day, in 1960 or ’61, at around three or four in the morning, I woke up on my own and, as I lay there in my bed, staring into the shadows, realized it was dark morning.

Wild joy catapulted me out of bed. I went to the window and peered outside. Yes, it was dark morning. The neighborhood was deep in slumber, houses shrouded in shadow, lawns only faintly illumined by streetlight, the whole world barren of movement.

I moved about the house, taking it all in—the wonder of dark morning, this time outside of time, dreamlike and strange. In the kitchen, I turned on the light and fixed myself a bowl of Sugar Pops. Then I headed for the living room to see what was on television at this hour, and in the hall encountered my mother. She sleepily asked what I was doing. I told her I had gotten up so I could see dark morning. She nodded, not quite understanding, and went back to bed.

I went into the living room and turned on television. There was nothing on Channel 4. I turned the dial. Nothing on Channel 5 either. Nor on Channel 8, nor Channel 11—there weren’t even any test patterns, just snow. A sense of desolation stole through my soul.

I changed the channel again, and to my surprise, Channel 13—the “educational” channel, as it was called, the one that broadcast so infrequently you forgot it was there—was broadcasting. In sharp black-and-white, a man in a suit with a crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses was sitting at a desk, talking. Now and then he would get up and the camera would follow him over to a blackboard where he would jot down a string of numbers and talk about them. Then he would return to his desk and talk some more. I understood not a word, yet watched in rapt attention, because he belonged to the brotherhood of dark morning. Perhaps, in his numbers, could be found the explanation of its mystery.

But if there was an explanation, I never learned it. My eyes at last grew heavy, and I fell asleep. When I awoke, the early morning sun was beaming through the blinds and dark morning was gone. Dark morning, the secret time, the hidden hours, the shadow world outside of time. Dark morning, dark morning, I will chase you again …


My good friend SMiles Lewis is on vacation, so we will not be doing a live of edition of PsiOp Radio this week. But, if you missed last week's show, it has been archived and is ready for download. GO HERE TO LISTEN NOW.