Sunrise in the humidity of deepest Florida, a hazy mist cloaking the ground as the coolness of the night turns to cloying heat, and a lone individual trudges along an airport runway in a pristine tracksuit.
He won't be breaking any land speed records - in fact this version of running barely qualifies as a brisk trot - but at 56 John Travolta is no spring chicken.
Consider, however, that his only exercise until recently was lifting double cheeseburgers to his mouth, or driving a golf cart aimlessly around the private runway which services his Jumbolair estate, and this represents significant progress. From tragedy to joy: John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston announced they are expecting a child. It comes 16 months after their son died from a seizure
From tragedy to joy: John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston announced they are expecting a child. It comes 16 months after their son died from a seizure
Indeed, neighbours who have seen him out and about of late have noticed a clear spring in his step, a sharper cut to his jawline and several fewer inches around the waist.
'John has always been a big guy, but now he's much more toned and we often see him out and about taking exercise,' one of Travolta's neighbours told me this week.
'It's like he's found a new lease of life, because this time last year all he seemed to do was eat junk food and cruise around on his own all night in that golf buggy.
'He's rediscovered the sun. For months the only time he ever came out was in the early hours.
'It's taken a while but it looks like John and Kelly [Preston, his wife] have finally come to terms with losing Jett. I'm pleased because they are fine people who deserve happiness.'
Travolta is not the only one making a big effort to turn his life around. The family's Florida homestead is a hive of activity, with Kelly making sure every inch of the sprawling estate is impeccably clean, purged of every toxin and impurity known to man.
Until recently the residents of Ocala have put the frequent visits from specialist cleaning companies down to the Travolta family's quirky Scientology beliefs.
This week, however, the true reason finally became clear: at 47, Preston is preparing to give birth to their third child, a brother or sister for ten-year-old daughter Ella Bleu.
While all new life is the source of great joy, for the Travoltas it is of immense significance.
Sixteen months after the tragic death of their only son, Jett, 16, during a family New Year holiday to the Bahamas, they are finally able to look forward with optimism.
'It's impossible to keep a secret, especially one as wonderful as this,' they said in a joint statement. 'We want to be the first to share this great news.'
This excitement has no doubt helped them to deal with the latest tragedy to afflict the family, when their two dogs were accidentally run over last week at an airport in Maine, where they have a second home.
Sources in the U.S. told me this week that Preston is overseeing a complete overhaul of all the family properties (they also have a palatial estate in the Bahamas, which they visit regularly on any one of their five planes, including a customised Boeing 707 commercial airliner) in preparation for the new arrival in November.
Nothing is being left to chance. Every single item in the properties must be entirely organic - or, to coin Scientology's preferred term, 'natural' - while cleaning products are vetted on an individual basis to ensure no harmful effects can leach into the family's living environment.
How this can be achieved by a family which clocks up a minimum of 30,000 air miles every year in its own fleet of private jets is a moot point.
More worrying is the manner in which the Travoltas - dedicated Scientologists of several decades' standing - are applying the bizarre tenets of their faith to their own lives.
It is a huge turnaround for Travolta in particular. This time last year a number of senior defectors from Scientology contacted me in great excitement, having heard that he was on the brink of quitting in the aftermath of his son's death.
The reason was simple: bereft at his loss, he blamed Scientology. Jett, who was autistic, virtually mute and suffered from seizures all his life, was denied access to mainstream medical treatment for his condition on the draconian grounds that Scientology, quite simply, does not believe in mental illness.
The religion's controversial founder, L. Ron Hubbard - or LRH to his slavish devotees - insisted in his writings that conditions such as autism do not exist, but are merely psychosomatic.
Travolta's wife is a vociferous campaigner against psychiatric drugs and the family lawyers have confirmed that prior to his death from a violent fit on the bathroom floor, Jett had been taken off the antiseizure-drug Depakote because, they say, it failed to work.
Instead Jett was enrolled on a Scientology-led Purification Rundown course, a detox that involves sitting in a sauna for hours on end and taking food supplements, high doses of Vitamin B and vegetable oils which, the sect claims, can dislodge toxins trapped in the body's fatty tissues.
It is, of course, dangerous bunkum with no credible scientific evidence to back it up, and in the aftermath of Jett's death Travolta is understood to have become haunted by the conviction he had let his son down.
'A lot of his anger was aimed at Scientology and I know he came very close to walking away, but recent evidence indicates they've succeeded in pulling him back in,' Rick Ross, an American author and lecturer on Scientology, told me this week.
He is sure to have been through a heck of a lot of auditing [the talking therapy central to Scientology] over the past year and it's clearly had the desired effect from Scientology's point of view.
'Now with the announcement of the baby it seems that the answer to their loss is to replace Jett and extend their family again. I assume Kelly is going through the usual Scientology rituals, like a Purification Rundown, which is a terrifying enough prospect for most people.' Family portrait: Travolta with wife Kelly, son Jett and daughter Ella
If the notion of 'replacing' Jett sounds harsh, one must first put it in the context of Scientologists' bizarre beliefs.
According to the doctrine laid down by LRH, human bodies are merely vessels for drifting alien spirits, called Thetans.
If you are prepared to accept such a tenet (and this, incredibly, is one of the more believable aspects of Scientology) it is a small step to conclude that a dearly missed child can be reincarnated in the form of your next offspring.
And this, a number of senior U.S. sources assure me, is precisely what Preston in particular believes.
Tory Christman, a high-ranking Scientologist before her defection ten years ago, has known Travolta well ever since he joined the sect in 1975.
She told me: 'I remember John and Kelly when they were expecting Jett - they were so excited about their first child. But they were badly let down over his autism.
'I have known many bereaved parents in Scientology who have tried to get pregnant in order to give birth to the same Thetan. As far as they're concerned, it's the same being in a different body - and a healthier body at that. I knew one specific couple who absolutely insist their youngest child is the reincarnation of the kid they lost.
'You have to be seriously brainwashed to believe that, of course, but that's Scientology for you.'
It is this conviction, sources say, which has put the spring back in Travolta's step and renewed his commitment to Scientology.
Since Jett's untimely death the family have been through repeated auditing sessions - which involves being hooked up to a crude lie detector called an E-meter.
Travolta is said to have initially been extremely upset that senior members of the sect instructed him to undergo intensive sessions with one of Scientology's 'ethics officers', trained to question the actor and other grieving family members to establish whether their 'negative influences' might have contributed to the tragedy.
Such was his disgruntlement that he made a startling public comment last year, when he stated in open court: 'My son was autistic and suffered from seizure disorder.'
For an 'Operating Thetan' on the fifth level of enlightenment - there are eight levels in all - such as Travolta to say this, given Scientology's total denial of autism as a medical condition, was hugely significant and an insight into his crisis of faith. Announcement: The actor announces his wife's pregnancy on hiw official website this week
His wife, however, has always been a fiercely dedicated Scientologist. Indeed according to those who endlessly question Travolta's sexuality (he has repeatedly been accused of - and denied - being gay) she was selected by the sect's leader, David Miscavige, as the ideal spouse to keep him on the correct path.
Idle gossip aside, she is known to have persuaded her husband to press on with auditing - specifically the process of 'running out' his loss through countless hours of talking therapy and a series of mysterious 'assists' based on the complex pseudo-science concocted by LRH, to relieve discomfort, through touch and energy waves.
All the evidence is that the approach has succeeded in preventing the unthinkable: John Travolta, the second most high-profile Scientologist on the planet after Tom Cruise, walking away from the sect.
'It's something that has been very difficult, but I am getting a lot of help in dealing with it,' Travolta said of Jett's loss last month.
'My wife and I and my daughter - we're all dealing with it as well as can be expected. We lean on our church heavily and they have helped us a lot.'
This will have come as an immense relief to the controversial Miscavige, who regards high-profile celebrity members as central to the expansion of Scientology.
'John is of immense value to the church, and Miscavige will have done everything in his power to prevent him walking away,' says Tory Christman. 'So I'm sure of all the people who are happy about Kelly having another baby, David Miscavige will be smiling more than most.
'Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled for John and Kelly that they're having another baby and I dearly hope it helps them to heal. But it is also a major coup for Scientology, because it puts paid to the worry about John Travolta, one of their biggest and best salesmen, walking away and embarrassing them.'
Indeed, not only is Travolta, a double Oscar nominee, of immense PR value to the sect, he is also known to have pumped millions of his own fortune into its new Superpower Centre, being built at Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.
At great personal expense, he also turned one of Hubbard's novels, Battlefield Earth, into a disastrous 2000 film.
'What you have to recognise is that celebrities are treated differently in Scientology - they are privileged cases and Miscavige makes sure they get the red-carpet treatment,' adds Rick Ross.
'You can be quite sure that they will have had all the support in the world in their quest to have another child. At Kelly's age the chances of this baby being conceived naturally are very slim.'
Representatives for the Travoltas declined to make any comment this week, but one would speculate that Preston has, in all likelihood, undergone fertility treatment.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of Midland Fertility Services, is blunt in her assessment.
'The chance of a live birth using your own eggs at the age of 47 is somewhere in the region of one per cent,' she told me this week. 'But with donor eggs everything changes completely, because it's the age of the egg, not the age of the mother, which really counts.
'What worries me is that every time a celebrity like Kelly Preston has a baby in her late 40s, it reinforces the misguided notion among many women that, so long as you look after your health, you can happily put off having children almost indefinitely. That's nonsense.
'The reality for women today is that our reproductive lifespan is just as short as it was for our great-great grandmothers.'
And even with the benefits of IVF and donor eggs, the fact remains that, at Preston's age, the chances of complications in pregnancy are significantly magnified, as is the likelihood of having another disabled child.
It is certainly highly questionable whether there will be any value in her steely determination to follow the tenets of LRH's theory of Dianetics - formulated in the Fifties on the back of scant and outdated medical knowledge.
Put simply, the goal of Dianetics is to overcome the negative impact of the sub conscious mind.
As Rick Ross puts it: 'Think about it - LRH wasn't a doctor. He wasn't even a graduate. He was a pulp science-fiction writer. What kind of crazy person takes medical advice from a man like that?'
To the Travoltas, however, he is the enlightened one, and they have shown repeatedly in the past that they will follow his advice to the letter. So it is that when this baby finally arrives towards the end of the year, it will be born in total silence, since LRH decreed that a traumatic childbirth can have a profound negative impact on that individual for the rest of their lives.
'Only a man could come up with something as crazy as that, but I know it's possible to have a silent birth because I did it,' says Tory Christman.
'It's a pretty inhuman thing to ask a woman to do, but if you truly believe that by screaming you will condemn your child to a life of drug addiction and criminality - trust me on this - you keep your mouth shut.
'I'm sure silent births don't do any harm to the baby, but they place intolerable pressure on the mother. Can you imagine how brainwashed you have to be to go through with that?
'The really big question for John and Kelly is whether they have learned from their mistakes in the past where Jett was concerned.'
Given his utter devastation at the loss of his firstborn, one can only hope that from now on Travolta will set a little more store by conventional medicine, and a little less by the dangerous and misguided rantings of a discredited science-fiction writer.