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The Waking

Updated: May 1, 2020

I recently finished what could very well be my new favorite book, The Blue Sweater. If you’re a person, you should read this book. The author, Jacqueline Novogratz, pens her story of engaging the developing world to solve complex issues of poverty in an authentic, raw, and hopeful memoir. She delves into the complexities of humanity as she documents her time working in Rwanda pre-genocide and then returning to face her friends post genocide who were bystanders, perpetrators, and victims. Novogratz also details where she is now twenty years later as one of the leaders of Acumen-Fund, an investment organization committed to lending loans to grass roots movements of impoverished people to change their own world.

This book is my heart song and I find so much of myself in her words. One of my favorite lines in her book was when she began to see herself “not as a do gooder with a big heart, but as someone to give and gain by being there. Compassion wasn’t enough…you have to look at the world with intellect and compassion, then you have wisdom.” While her thoughts on development deeply resonated with me, she also reminisced on her favorite parts of normal life, one being the morning.

“I have always cherished the dawn, especially in Africa. I love being part of a place’s awakening.”

The morning is my first love.

Admittedly, I hate getting out of my snuggly comforter to face the cool mountain air greeting my toes. But the morning is full of nostalgia for me. The morning is having cream with my coffee as a kid with my dad. The morning is my childhood of waking up so early my parents made a household rule I couldn’t come get them on weekends until 8:00am. The morning is Christmas in the mountains with a warm fireplace while opening stockings. The morning is peaceful. Nothing has happened yet, good or bad. It’s a time of preparation, reflection, and potential. Every once in a while, I remember my mornings in Thailand. I would awake, make my pour over coffee and most mornings have granola with yogurt and fresh tropical fruit.  My first few weeks, morning was my sanctuary. The day hadn’t beaten me up. I could be still, find solace within the walls of my house and journal before braving the chaotic roads on a motorbike. During the first months, I literally always said a prayer before pulling out onto the road that I wouldn’t die. Not dramatic at all.

One of my favorite memories on my motorbike was when I was making about a 15 mile trip outside of town for an early meeting. I left my house at 6am when the sun was only stirring to beckon the world hello. Monks and novices were still collecting their morning alms, and the markets were just beginning to open up. I was their only audience for whom they didn’t even know they were performing. Even now when I go camping, I love greeting the earth in solitude, in peacefulness, in the wilderness and in the innocence of the day. Especially in today’s world where a new tragedy greets us daily by 5pm, the morning is somewhat holy. It’s sacred. It hasn’t been disturbed. The day hasn’t been harmed.

I’m making no claims to be a morning person. The reality is I don’t utter a sentence before 7:00am and I barely functioned at my 6:15 yoga class last week with a near blackout from downward dog to mountain pose. But I love what it represents. I love the opportunity it brings. I love the promise it holds.

If you so choose to indulge yourself in some related poetry, here’s one of my favorite poems by Theodore Roethke turned musical pieces by Kurt Elling.

The WakingBY Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?

I hear my being dance from ear to ear.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?

God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,

And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?

The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do

To you and me; so take the lively air,

And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go

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