It doesn’t look like that this morning, sadly. That picture was taken on my way to work a few weeks ago, at the start of a period of good weather that’s just come to an end. This morning is a more typically damp Galway morning, but I won’t complain after such a long period of good weather. I’ve had a slightly earlier start than usual this morning, as I’m currently on the bust to Dublin for work. It’s made me think about journeys, and mornings.
Naturally enough, we tend to associate the morning with beginnings. But it seems we think of them in more specific terms than that. If someone says the word morning, you’re probably more likely to picture something like the image above, rather than the overcast sky, green fields and farm buildings I’m looking at right now. Is that just because we’re more likely to think of something positive than something negative?
I think there’s more to it than that. Think of the night-time. Is someone more likely to conjure up images of sitting beside a warm fire, or being inside with loved ones, or impressions of darkness and cold? So many of the phrases associated with the night remind us of the dark (naturally) but also fear, loneliness and death. St John of the Cross coined the term dark night of the soul to refer to his belief in the journey of the soul from its body to God. The term is still used today (often with long added for good measure) to refer to depression or dealing with great emotional hardship. We can also refer to the middle of the night quite morbidly as the dead of night. We tend to think of the night as more than just dark: it’s deadly and lonely too.
Naturally enough the ways we refer to the morning contrast with the ways we refer to the night. But there seems to be more behind our conception of the morning than the fact that it’s earlier and brighter than the night. Think of songs like Good Morning Sunshine or Good Day Sunshine. No-one wants to hear a song called Good Day Grey Clouds with Persistent Drizzle (well, I kind of do now). When we talk about the dawning of a new era, we’re always talking about something positive: a new, refreshing and welcome change. Similarly, when we talk about the start of a brand-new day: it’s the chance to start our lives afresh, and put our past troubles behind us, just like we put the night behind us when day breaks. When we think of the morning we don’t just think of the start of another 24-hour cycle: we think of brightness and of hope, regardless of how bright and hopeful-looking our typical morning weather actually is.
I think can be traced back to the days of our distant ancestors, when the night was filled with mysterious and terrifying sounds from beyond the cave entrance, or the floor of the forest, and predators who could sneak up and in an instant take our lives and those of everyone around us. The night really was dark, deadly and terrifying (and sadly still is, in different ways, for so many).
The morning then, regardless of how sunny or not it was, was a relief, a sign that one had survived another night, and filled with optimism and possibility too: the hope that this day the hunt will go well and everyone will have enough to eat, or we might discover something or someplace new and exciting.
Whatever your morning is like I hope it’s a sunny one figuratively, if not literally, and this brand-new day brings you some interesting journeys.