The Fire Alarm and Greeting the Dawn

It was the fire alarm that woke me.

In the predawn darkness, the loud electronic siren in the house roused me instantly from deep dreaming. Confused, I thought it was the newly installed burglar alarm (there have been a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood). My beloved is away in Florida and I am alone with the dogs, so I leapt out of bed and dashed naked into the hallway where the electronic keypad glowed in the darkness.

My brain struggled to wake up and make full sense of the piercing noise. Standing in the hallway, squinting at the keypad with my nearly blind eyes, I saw green lights, not red. As the dogs ran about the house in their own state of distress, I realized that the electronic wailing wasn’t nearly loud enough to be the house alarm; instead, the smoke detectors were going off in my partner’s office and the kitchen simultaneously.

Damn it, I cursed aloud.

The fire alarms have repeatedly gone off in the new house for no apparent reason, nearly always in the middle of the night. Now another two were blaring forth simultaneously without any smoke or fire. The alarms are hotwired into the house electrical system with a battery backup (that should emit a chirp when the battery needs replacing rather than simply going off).

Naked, I stood on the office chair while the siren blasted me and I attempted to unscrew the round, plastic device. Removing the battery failed to stop the full-volume audio assault, and just as with the one in my office a week ago, the wires are snugly fitted into a plastic component that has to be pried loose. It took a few painfully delirious, still half-asleep minutes, but I managed to get both alarms disconnected and blessedly silenced.

No fire, no smoke. Surely all four alarms cannot need a new battery within ten days of each other? Either we have a short-circuit in the wiring, or a spirit visitor is attempting to get my attention.

In the kitchen, I climbed down from the counter, my ears still ringing. Outside, the world remained cloaked in velvety darkness, and I stood for a moment, groggily considering my available options. I squinted to read the clock digits glowing on the stove and noted it was five o’clock, and realized that I would have to remain awake. If I wake anytime near five, sleep is over. I must get up because I won’t get back to sleep. I also have to eat to stabilize my blood sugar or I’ll soon be wobbly, a poor way to begin a day.

Silently, I lifted the glass dome on the counter and removed one of the gluten-free scones I had baked the night previous (composed of ground flax seeds, ground almonds, coconut flour, and deliciously spiked with ginger and dried cranberries). I set it on a small plate and ate it standing up in the kitchen, still somewhat in a fog. Meanwhile with the sonic crisis over and too early for their breakfast, our dogs headed back to the warmth of bed.

I mused for a bit whether these repeated alarms in the middle of the night and wee hours of morning are caused by a spirit or disincarnate entity that wants my attention. For what, I wondered.

Knowing I wouldn’t be going back to sleep, I poured fresh water into the cobalt blue kettle, placed it on the stove, and turned it on to heat for tea. I decided that I would sit down at the dining room table with my steaming cup of fragrant brew and settle early into the day’s work of editing the book’s conclusion. From another room, I fetched my notebook and the printed pages, along with my cracked but indispensable fountain pen from Paris.

Deactivating the house alarm, I pulled on some clothing to save naked flesh from the ever present mosquitoes, and slid open one of the glass doors in the living room. Stepping barefoot outside into the warm darkness, I crossed the wide, stone lanai and threaded my way to the edge of the rear lawn between the two great sentinel trees. There I gazed up at the clouded mountains looming close at hand and opened my heart and senses wide.

I stood for awhile, savoring the tropical quietude and moist air. The dawn chorus of birds Rainytreehad not yet begun, and the rich stillness was broken only by the sound of crickets, feral chickens crowing in the ravine below, and the distant hum of early commuters on the Pali Highway. In the darkness, I offered my prayers of gratitude and intentions for the day, allowing my body to sway and stretch with easy, gentle movements, slowly coming to wake.

A favorite song of mine, “Silence,” sung by Georgia-born singer Lizz Wright, surfaced unbidden in my mind. Since living in Spain, this has been my “dawn song,” one that I have repeatedly offered forth to the ‘other-than-human’ world when I greet the day’s arrival. I suspect that when my life is over, Lizz’s “Silence” will be one of a dozen songs that rise up from my body like wispy blue smoke, carrying the very essence of my being.

Have you heard the silent night?

The Earth is always singing

praises of the morning sun

even before morning…


And the whole world is singing of

its beauty all day long…

And even the quiet dark

that silence is a song…


Weep not for the day of grey

for the heavens are not weeping…

Roses are still red and gay

they are even blooming…


And the whole world is singing of

its beauty all day long…

And even the quiet dark

that silence is a song,

that silence is a song…

Standing in the wet grass, listening to the song of silence, I found myself musing on another morning a couple of years ago, near the end of our time in Andalucía. Alone in the house, I was woken in the predawn darkness by a storm blowing the windows open and, after closing things up, I found my way outside to stand on the broad gravel terrace looking out over the campo and olive groves. It’s a story that opened the conclusion of the original manuscript, and it shares that same song by Ms. Wright.

I wondered briefly if there might be some connection between that morning two and a half years ago and today. There are some similarities—alone in the house, woken early, working on the conclusion of the book—but if a key connection exists, it isn’t yet clear to me.

In the darkness, I turned towards the house and slowly walked back to the lanai, soles sinking into the wet lawn. I wiped my grassy feet on the outdoor mat, and stepped inside for my morning tea. The day is been met with prayers, gratitude, intention, and a song. Time now to settle in to my tasks.

I worked for a couple hours at the large dining room table, shuffling words and restringing sentences. I ate another flax and almond scone and then relocated to the living room, where I sat cross-legged on the floor with pages spread across the coffee table, exactly as I wrote most of the manuscript. In a curiously timeless fashion, the quiet morning of work quickly slipped by. By noon, I had already spent six hours polishing paragraphs and rewriting.

It has rained and stormed all day, complete with thunder and lightning (and a power outage), a draft dancing through this breezy house through the open jalousies of the louvered glass windows. Noting the Whippets curled up on the sofa behind me, and feeling a bit cool myself, I stood up and closed most of the windows. (I know, I know, it’s December; most of the northern world is freezing and shoveling snow, while here in Hawaii we’re considering closing the windows or perhaps putting on long trousers).

A quiet Sunday has enfolded me. A good day for staying indoors and working, steeped in the tranquility of being housebound in a storm. As is my usual way, I have passed nearly all the hours in silence. Several times I have paused with my pen and simply gazed out the wide windows at the driving sheets of rain, watching them pummel the swaying green landscape in a nearly violent blessing of water and wind.

Now, as the late afternoon descends and the leaden sky darkens, I’ve switched gears and locations, and sit typing at my little desk, though still I am observing the falling rain and listening to its endless chant.

Perhaps it is simply some faulty wiring that set off the smoke detectors this morning. Or maybe we have a mischievous spirit in the house. Whether I was somehow summoned by otherworldly forces to rise earlier than normal and come outdoors to sing to the trees and jungle ravine, who can say. What I know is that the work today has flowed in a mostly effortless and voluminous fashion, for which I am truly grateful. For the first time in my life, I have a real deadline for my writing work (it looms at the end of this month), and I am determined to get as much work done as possible in these ten days of solitude whilst my partner is away, an opportunity to simply immerse myself in the task at hand.

What a joy and gift of grace to be in this lovely house, surrounded and enfolded by lush beauty, where writing comes with little distraction other than songbirds outside the window. (Notice that I am not saying writing is easy, it seldom is). Once again, I’m back where I belong as a Soul Artist, engaged in polysensory communion with the ‘other-than-human’ world, seeking to offer something of value to the web of life.

Gentle reader, I hope that in your day Grace embraces you in its unique way. May your breath feel easy and full, and in our noisy world may you find a bit of silence and savor it, like a bee sips nectar from an enticing flower. Do something that feeds your soul. I hope too that you remember that the real purpose of life is to offer the singular beauty of yourself, to carry that which only you can bring to the world, and share it wholeheartedly. Unabashedly. Each life we touch affects countless others; we are all interconnected, and everything is relationship.

Don’t go back to sleep.