This time of year I wake in the dark, force my feet to the floor in the dark, and start my job in the dark. I keep what you might call lobsterman’s hours, depending upon the lobsterman. I run a little seasonal bakery, and through July and August I, like the rest of the world’s bakers, am up-close-and-personal with the wee hours of the morning.

Some people just naturally wake up at such an hour. Not I; this body likes to sleep, and departing the bunk is a chore and a struggle. Once upright and oriented, however, the break of day is a sweet time to be at one’s particular grindstone.

In the early summer, if the weather’s not too bad, the hour or so before sunrise brings out the songbirds. A mighty chorus and concatenation—if one may mix a “cat” and a bird reference so casually—of avian sound greets the laborer who starts before the sun. Mrs. Cardinal, who lives somewhere right around here, makes a few trips to my bird feeder (which is just a plastic take-out container screwed to a branch on the snowball bush). She makes her one-chirp noise, and I imagine her to be scolding me sternly for something I didn’t know I’d done wrong. Riley, my husband’s calico cat, also starts her morning lecture, in a hurry to come inside for her first breakfast. She marches in determined circles around the kitchen meowing for no good reason. Thankfully, Riley takes no interest in songbirds.

At 4:30 a.m. a pickup goes past headed north, toward the harbor, obviously one of the two island lobstermen who live to the south of me. By next month I will probably recognize the truck engines and know one from the other.

I do not start the day with coffee, which may be surprising, given how I am always looking for a chance to loiter around the cafes on the mainland nursing a strong cupful. Coffee is a pleasure but I don’t really want anything at 4 a.m., and it’s not about the caffeine. The coffee can wait until 5:30 or 6. I do not get online, I have no interest in social media, and I wait a little while before turning on the radio or television for news, weather, or tunes. The early quiet is a real treat, and the work of kneading bread does not benefit much from technology.

Just before it gets light out, we begin hearing the lobster boats. They are the real economy of Matinicus, and the only serious industry; my bakery is but a “side-hustle.” You cannot see Matinicus Harbor from my place, or water of any sort, unless you climb a tree, so a suggestion of fishermen starting to work in the dawn light, with mind’s-eye image of wheeling seagulls and all that usual stuff, does not acquit me of lingering over a scenic view. I cannot afford the time to stand in my slippers, cradling a coffee mug, to admire the pastels where water meets the sky, and I have no good site from which to view it anyway. But a marine diesel in the distance paints the picture well enough, because I know the outlines and the colors and most of the moving parts. I can imagine it. Some days we get the classic “red sky in the morning” (as in, “sailors take warning”) and I think how beautiful it must be in our east-facing harbor.

My household no longer runs the VHF radio all the time, as we did back in the days when this island supported a pilot boat and Paul worked with the Bay Pilots to get the tankers and cargo ships in for the Sprague docks and Bucksport and Bangor. I don’t need to listen to all of my neighbors think out loud as they start their day, although some will make a good case for keeping the radio on should there be any emergency. I do leave the aviation radio on, which crackles to life at about 6:30 each morning, usually with “Knox County traffic, Cape Air twin Cessna …” Sometimes it is Penobscot Island Air, up and going first thing, delivering carpenters to the job site and sternmen back to their island captains. Summer work days are long, be ye a lobsterman, an air taxi pilot, or a baker. The weatherman said we were only 11 minutes down from the longest day of the year.

I will not be “singing the praises” of 4 a.m. for long. The accumulated sleep debt over the next eight weeks will soon make the wake-up hurt. While I can manage it, I’ll remember to stand and turn toward the colors in the morning sky. Even without a water view, or an east-facing deck, the picture is pretty good.