By the Dawn’s Early Light

The familiar sounds of home are a comforting routine that tells us all is right in the world – sounds you hope you can listen to forever.

September 8, 2023 | | Headwaters Nest

There is a pick-pick-picking at the screen as I come down the dark staircase into the kitchen. It’s our cat, Bowie, his razor claws making work of the metal mesh, rat-a-tat-tat! I make a low “Psst! Psst!” to shoo him away, but he remains determined. Through the dim morning light, I walk over to see what he’s up to. There has been a skunk smelling up our front door area and I hope it’s not back. As I shut the window to fend off Mr. Skunk’s fumes, I see instead a tiny tree frog stuck to the outside of the screen. His little pads spread between the metal squares as he makes his way upward and away from the deadly snares coming at him from the shadows.

“Come with me, Handsome Jack,” I say to Bowie, using one of his nicknames, lifting his formidable 18 pounds over to the spot where he usually crunches his morning treats. As soon as I rattle the little kibbles, he forgets the nimble mystery creature stuck to the screen. The dogs are up now too. I hear them plop off the couches (perfectly sized dog beds for lengthy lurchers) in the TV room upstairs. Their long toes making stretchy, scratchy noises and they peer at me from the landing before they pad down the stairs, taking the last three steps in the first leap of the day.

Zoe is first to me, her long snout nuzzling my hands; she’s wiggly and excited for the day to begin. Her paws stretch out to touch my feet, and I hop a little to avoid my toes being victim to her enthusiasm. Zoe is just about three now – a pandemic puppy. We are pretty much all she knows. She greets me and loves me up with all the excitement she had on day one. Blixy comes up behind, patient and next in line, her sweet almond-shaped eyes looking up for a scratch too. At over nine, our older girl’s muzzle and chest are getting whiter by the month. She moves more slowly now but can still put the chase on Zoe if she’s acting out too much. Over to the janky sliding door, and they’re off for their morning duties outside.

Time for breakfast and a coffee. The house is still quiet and the lights are still off. I prefer it this way – no need to startle my eyes too quickly. I relish in the sounds of the morning instead. As the espresso machine gets some fresh water, I can hear a few sputters from inside, telling me it’s waking up too. Ah, that first cup. My toast pops up briskly. I open the squeaky door of the fridge (must fix that) to grab some almond milk and give the container a shake. It’s a ritual for me, this routine of sounds here in the half-light. By the time my toast is ready, coffee topped to perfection, the dogs are back at the door, wagging in synch, Zoe making a little huff, huff to let me know she’s had a few laps. Blixy simply wags, sits down for her treat, and retreats to the soft couch upstairs.

The sounds of the house are getting stronger now. Zoe and Bowie are up, down, eating, exploring, and Blixy is woofing back into her dream state. My seedy toast and crunchy peanut butter are satisfyingly loud in my ears.

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  • I’m reminded of mornings growing up – the sounds just as predictable as now, but with little differences. Then it was the whirr of the minutes changing on the electronic alarm clock instead of the dulcet tones of our devices vibrating on chargers. It was the percolator hissing on the stove instead of the beeps of a fancy coffee machine on the counter. My dad grew up drinking instant coffee, and when I was a kid, he still felt it was the best around. He’d stir the molten dark syrup rapidly in his favourite mug (Clink! Clink! Clink!), then go and sweep all the change off his dresser into his pockets (Ching! Ching! Ching!), grab his keys and head out the door. My mom would be up also, coming in from chores and stomping the mud, or early snow, from her boots before feeding some logs into the woodstove to warm up the house. “Have you had breakfast?” she’d ask.

    These days my son, Adrian, is often up as early as I am, getting ready for work or college, just as I was with my mom after my dad left for work. Adrian isn’t surprised to find me sitting in the pale dawn light, listening to the morning ticks and tones, munching on my toast. It’s a nice routine that tells us all is right in the world – a mixture of comforting sounds you hope you can listen to forever. As the first rays of sunshine creep across the window sills, he gives me a smile and quietly greets the pets, rubbing their ears and offering them a second round of treats. “Have time for breakfast?” I ask.


    Release Your Inner Wild

    The Museum of Dufferin has started offering master classes covering various art formats, including a pair specifically for youth. On September 27 at 6 p.m., attendees ages 9 to 16 are invited to draw a wolf using a range of graphite pencils and working from a reference photograph. Focus will be on accuracy, shading effects and textures, along with unique approaches to add personal designs, styles and symbols. Students will then share their work and engage in a discussion about the experience. Then on November 18 at 1 p.m., kids ages 6 to 12 can learn to create a watercolour seahorse. These classes will be taught by Ricky Schaede, an artist and instructor from Orangeville who encourages imagination and inclusiveness in his teachings.

    Merrily we roll along

    A new podcast takes a thought-provoking approach to understanding and nurturing early childhood development. Hosted by Stephen Hurley and Michelle Schurter, the Merrily Podcast features honest conversations aimed at providing parents, educators and others with unique perspectives on the practices, theory and policy of early years education. Hosted by Dufferin County and other municipalities, the podcast is available on Spotify, iTunes and voicEd Radio.

    Back to school with Kidz

    Kidz in Caledon has launched a fundraising appeal to help ensure all Caledon kids are returning to school this fall with nourishing meals and essential school supplies. Just $50 provides a student in need with a week of healthy lunches, and $100 funds a back-to-school kit for one child. Run by Caledon Community Services, the Kidz in Caledon program helps more than 400 children pursue their education with a full tummy. To donate, go to

    Camp out!

    There is still time for one more camp out – or to get a few nights in if you didn’t this summer. Albion Hills Campground is the perfect spot for a close-to-home adventure. It’s located on Highway 50 in the northeast hills of Caledon on the banks of the Humber River. Albion Hills offers a perfect combo of scenery, trails and activities for you and your littles. Book your camping adventure up until October 15.

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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