As the Spring semester grinds inexorably by, I see rare hours of the clock on a more consistent, more intimate basis. Last year as a freshman, I often wrote papers in Lamont library, and any truly late-night battle with the Lamonster resulted in a small but meaningful ritual: conversing with the 4:00 AM birds.
The reading rooms in Lamont are overheated, and the air is dead. Noise is rare and quickly hushed so as to avoid disturbing the other students. Everyone is hostile; no one wants to be there longer than absolutely necessary. As a freshman, I used to inflict this room on myself for hours, cranking out an expos or history paper.
After many hours with my neck hunched, shoulders tight, eyes drying out as they stared at my laptop screen, wrists developing some sort of structural strain from typing, I would walk outside into the cold night air around 4:00 AM, and suddenly everything was fresh and clear. As late March turned into early April, the air went from cold to cool, and every now and then a light rain would be ready to wash my face and eyes.
And after the oppressive silence of the reading room, I would be met with the upbeat voices of the 4:00 AM birds. I never once saw one, but in the brief walk across the yard to my dorm, I could hear them chatter amongst themselves, starting punctually at just before 4:00 AM. They aren’t particularly imaginative; they don’t have the lyric variance of the bluebird or the clear tones of a wood thrush, but they do sound glad that it is morning. Walking out of Lamont freshman year, it was a small reassurance that the world could in fact be beautiful.
After last year, a new housing situation gave me a much better working space than Lamont, and now when I finish work late in the morning, I don’t have to walk outside to collapse into bed. It’s nicer than last year, but I forget about the 4:00 AM birds.
Last Friday night, the window was open, and as the cool Spring air found its way across the room, I heard the 4:00 AM birds for the first time in a year. Not that I needed reminding that the world is beautiful, but once again they told me to be glad it was morning, and it is Spring.