Mornings have always been the best. I remember waking up in bed as a kid listening to over-the-road trucks on nearby I-70 approaching from miles away. Eighteen, old school, bias ply tires that sang like the wind, and a throaty diesel engine pulling like a loyal mule. I started my days listening to the world around me before I even left the bed.
Some of you will remember that in the 1960s and 70s, the day's plans were based on outdoor conditions. Everyone started chores early to beat the heat of the day. Back then, the only people who hired lawn services were the well-off and elderly. Everyone else waited for that moment in time on Saturday morning when the dew burned off enough to mow the grass. We had a half-acre yard and push-mowed the whole thing way before lunch. Morning energy. Morning focus.
Since I bought my first mower at the age of eight, I had mowed a couple of thousand acres by the time I reached college. My guidance counselor in the Work Study department sent me straight to the landscape crew. Some of my favorite memories in college were the early mornings at the greenhouses, building a fire, getting tools loaded in the truck, and going out into the cool, damp morning to start a day of work.
After graduating college, I lived in a little house with my dog Dajjr. A blue Doberman I "rescued" from my vet. Back then, rescues weren't a thing. You just called the vet and asked if they had any dogs ready to be put down and if I could come to pick one up. I brought home a beat-down, skinny, over-cropped dog that bit me the first day. I fed him like a king; and took him running. You guessed it, early morning. We hit the street at about 5 am. running 4-6 miles at a time, hard and fast. The dog recovered from his previous mistreatment and grew into a beast who would pull me to the ground if I wasn't careful. One road, in particular, will always be in my memories. A long soft climb up through trees, along a creek. The early morning air, sunlight barely breaking the sky, and a half-wild dog that couldn't wait to get to the top of the hill. I felt fully alive those mornings.
Maybe you're like me, past all those years and looking at your 50s or 60s, wondering if it's still worth it. It is. It's worth it more now than ever. Not because we have to but because we can. Getting our human days started outdoors, actively and with intention, gets us off to a jump start, figuratively and literally. Our bodies and brains respond to activity, and with any luck, we squeeze in a sunrise meditation at the end, and our hearts and minds join the fun. If we keep it up regularly, we avoid heart disease, obesity, inflammation, poor circulation, and mental decline. Totally worth it.
But here's the best part. Many of the exercises we can choose to participate in are childhood activities. Riding bikes, jogging, jumping rope, and running with the dog all awaken the child inside. We aren't as fast as we used to be, nor with as much spring. But part of what we know about aging is people who have a plan for the next day, somewhere to be, someone to meet, a chore or activity to attend; those people live the longest, happiest lives. I can't help to think it's because of the joy it brings, the healthy bones, muscles, and brain it builds, and the frequent reminder that our child inside will always be ready. Always willing to start a new day, to take on life and the living things around us.