I went on a hike early in the morning last week. The trail started at the floor of a canyon, allowing for a few shaded miles to start the loop I aimed to conquer before lunch. With coffee in hand, I began my journey. Beetles scampered underfoot, large white flowers were stretching open, and bunnies lazily hopped through grass. A mile in, I spotted a deer on the other side of the trail quietly munching on some greens, watching me pass. There are sights only offered in early morning as the world awakens.

Soon after, I spotted three more deer stretching their necks up into a tree. I stopped to watch as they balanced on hind legs to reach higher. As they continued with their breakfast unconcerned by the girl in a bright blue shirt, a biker also paused to observe and said, “I spotted a bobcat just ahead. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since the fires.” I thanked him for the tip and took off with an accelerated pace. I rounded a bend to a trail intersection where I saw a man wielding a four-inch knife, appearing poised to fight something big. He spotted me quickly approaching and said, “It’s a bobcat!”

Unfortunately, once I turned the corner there was no bobcat. It had slinked off into the dense, shadowy trees. The man from Arizona tucked away his knife near his bear spray, justifying his preparedness saying he was unsure if bobcats were like mountain lions. I held a metal coffee cup, my obvious tool of defense. Even though I didn’t see the cat, being in its presence brought excitement to the quiet morning.

By mile seven, the sun burned above the populated trail. The heat and noise sent animals into hiding, the early morning magic gone. I’ve had a lot of early morning adventures this year in various corners of the world. I never regret a pre-sunrise alarm once I’m out exploring beautiful parks, quiet streets, or wild safari reserves. In the stillness, I become overwhelmed with the intricate beauty God has woven into life like hummingbirds, bright yellow egg yolks, dewy grass, still bodies of water — things absent or rushed past when the world gets crowded and loud.

I think Jesus likes early mornings, too. In the Bible, Jesus makes breakfast for His disciples early in the morning. Jesus rises early to retreat and pray. The tomb was found empty in the early morning. These events brought excitement to the disciples lives because Jesus and His power were present. He was right there stoking a fire on the shore of a lake, speaking with His Father, and freed from death’s bondage. I think we can confuse quiet with the feeling of absence. But God is not sleeping while we wander down a trail in dawn’s light. With patience and attentiveness, the still and quiet moments can be the ones most filled with manifestations of God’s presence.

Happy summer, make time to enjoy a quiet morning.