This is not an exaggeration:
Every time I come to work, I am aware of how seamless it feels. This transition from my personal life to my life as an employee has none of the jolt and hitch that it has had with other work.
I arrived at this place expected to look into possibly over one hundred, two hundred (?) different faces during a shift. Some of them, I see every day. I know in a glance that this or that person is happy with the early frost, preoccupied with a looming financial problem, ready to drink their coffee in two swallows to get on the trail five minutes faster, or quietly preparing for another day of killing time.
And then there are the faces I’ve never seen before and will never see again. I watch their backs retreat out the door and am sometimes mystified that our paths have briefly crossed: Who are you? And what does this all mean?
All of it, in some ways, feels like a very large family in a very large living room. It is no lie that I sometimes feel more comfortable in the bakery’s brick and wood dining room than I do in my own home on the sofa.
When I leave the bakery after a shift, there is no experience of being released and trying to reconnect with my “real life”—only a subtle sense of wonder and belonging, and of continued movement to what’s next.
3:10 A.M: Time to wake up! Gotta be to work in 30 minutes! For a lot of beings this is incomprehensible, but after three plus years it almost comes natural to me. Walking in the door, I am greeted by the most amazing scent of fresh baked breads and pastries. Stomach growling, I make a cup of English Breakfast tea and start the many tasks of preparing our fresh goods for delivery to our many clients scattered across Missoula.
As I make my way through the city, I have the unique perspective of watching it wake up and come alive. Streets that I had traveled alone just minutes before are now best avoided; clients still rub their eyes clutching their precious morning coffee. After the rounds are made, I return to the bakery to clean up and put things away. It has magically come alive in my absence glowing and inviting with customers’ chatter and the sounds of production. I have finally returned from my home away from home.
For a long period of working at Bernice’s, I used to open the bakery. I’ve never claimed to be a morning person. Even in my younger years when I was still losing teeth, I slept longer than my parents and my older sister. I can remember saying in my initial interview for working at Bernice’s that I was dead before nine in the morning. This is all true, and I can’t say that Bernice’s made me a morning person, but I can say that Bernice’s shows me what I’m missing when I’m dreaming—something akin to a star-crossed lover.
There’s something about early mornings that the rest of the day cannot quite claim as an attribute. Perhaps, it is the potential of a new day pulsing in the air— the young beat of beginnings. Maybe it’s the way in which the world is stirring but not quite moving, or knowing that most people are sleeping between the cool folds of their sheets dreaming their last dream of the night unaware a new day has already begun for some. There’s something about early mornings. The blue light growing over Mount Sentinel tastes fresh and crisp. Irreverent to whether it is the grey quilt of clouds in the winter, late Summer’s clear, gleaning skies, or even the final winks of the stars, the morning is clean.
Most mornings have little variation. Sure, the weather varies from season to season. Sometimes, I beat the sun in waking. Sometimes, I am later. Sometimes, we rise together. Nonetheless, my routine remains fairly constant. I wake up, I get dressed, I brush my teeth and wash my face, and then I hop onto my bike to head to the bakery. The bike ride is much like a cold shower. My muscles ache with the early morning exertion, the cool air envelops me, and my lungs fill with that same air. Somewhat like osmosis, I become a part of the air and the air a part of me. The bike ride, most times, is fairly uneventful. With everyone sleeping, tucked in their beds, Missoula feels like a ghost town. The buildings and mountains soak in the slate and grey light, and if there are people on the streets, their coloring and demeanor isn’t much different from the buildings and mountains. Less entities in of themselves and more so reflections of the morning. I greet nonchalantly animals and people alike: a cordial hello to a squirrel, a salutation to a chickadee, a nod to the gang of crows, a wave to the old man on his whining Schwinn. Most animated object stare blankly back wondering why the girl flying by on her bike has any reason to wave hello. Only once can I recall giving a similar gaze.
Riding my bike to work across the Higgins Street Bridge, the sun just barely above the horizon, I saw an osprey fly above my head then stop in midair flapping its wings in a visceral, quick rhythm. With deft concentration the osprey stared at the rippling surface of the river—waiting for something. As with most mornings, I stop for nothing; this was no exception. I wondered tiredly but continued pedaling. Just as I was closest to the hovering osprey, he dove into the water like a kamikaze. This one and only time, I stopped my bike. I then jumped off my bike then over the handrail. I watched as the osprey broke the water’s surface, looked as though it were floundering, then emerged with a fish (about half his size). The osprey flew away graceless and awkward to a distant aspen. I stood silent for a moment and then said, “Good Morning to you too.”