Since the beginning of this year, I have been traveling to visit Sean in a slightly different way in order to save money, time, and be more efficient. My new method is to wake up at 3:30 am, get on the road around 4 am, and arrive at the prison just before 8 am in time to visit for about 5 1/2 hours then drive home the same day. This eliminates the need for all the preparations I was making before. The only things I need to bring are extra clothes to be able to adhere to the ever-changing strict dress code, some water and snacks for the road, as well as plenty of podcasts to listen to as I drive. Rather than stay overnight in a hotel, I get to sleep in my own bed which means better quality sleep, more energy, and I still have half my weekend free to get things done. This has made visiting easier, cheaper, and it means I can do it more often. Along with Family Visit it allows us to see each other more often which has been really good for our relationship. This also allows for more spontaneity which is good because life isn’t always based on the calendar. Sunrise visits, as we refer to them, have quickly become our favorite way to do normal visits.
I have never been a morning person. According to chronobiologists, there are 3 types of people; morning larks, humming birds, and night owls. Larks typically function their best and are most alert early in the morning, they wake up before their alarm with a spring in their step. Owls don’t enjoy waking before 10 am and are most productive in the dark hours past 9 pm. The rest of us who fall somewhere in between are humming birds. I am somewhere between a humming bird and a night owl. I wouldn’t naturally wake up at 3:30 am on a typical day, but there is something sort of magical about setting out in the dark quiet before most people are even awake.
On these trips the highway is free from traffic and everything feels quiet. There are less distractions in the dark, it’s colder and calmer. The air seems different at 4 am than it does during the day. I drive for at least an hour or two before the sun rises depending on the season. I get to see the entire sunrise which is honestly something I have never seen before and it’s surprisingly beautiful. It was especially meaningful on Sean’s birthday. As I drove the sun rose by 5 am, officially marking our day of celebration.
It was a special day for us. I sang him Happy Birthday before we ate the individually packaged slices of cheesecake from vending machines, he blew out the imaginary candle and I clapped. How many more birthdays will be celebrated in the prison visiting room? We don’t know, but we don’t let that bother us. For now these moments mean everything.
If you enjoy night time and listening to podcasts check out Nocturne, a podcast about peering into the dusty corners of the night and exploring often undisclosed and overlooked slices of life. It’s worth a listen.