C is for Contemplation

It all began before the apocalypse.

For the first time in a decade, my little family was going to go on a vacation. And unlike anything we had done before, this was going to be an epic holiday. Our oldest was slated to go to Paris (France, if you must ask) as part of a senior French class trip. The rest of us had booked a week in Hawaii at a resort, a first for us. We were going to be pampered and enjoy a break for the first time in a really long time. For some, that was the going to be the first time ever.

Then the world ended and we had to cancel our flights and hotels and stay home. I’m not bitter about that – we’re how many months in and still pandemic free, and that has a lot to do with limiting exposures.

The other side of that coin is that we had money budgeted and set aside for the vacation. Now, a prudent person might have simply socked it away again. And for a lot of it, we did, but we also let us ourselves have a little something. We ordered backyard furniture.

And so a new routine was born for me. I get up in the mornings (earlier these last few weeks, but that’s fodder for another post), make a cup of tea (because at some point in the last six months, morning coffee gives me heartburn but tea doesn’t – the graphic still stands, Chief), and I head out to the backyard. While the dog noses around until she settles in the shade, I journal. Or at least what I call journaling – it’s more like a diary than a journal, but the word diary conjures images of heart festooned covers and padlocked latches, and this is more me recording my thoughts and random recounts.

This routine has quickly become writ in stone, albeit soapstone. In true Pavlovian nature, as soon as the dog hears me stirring that cup of tea she comes running down to go outside. Unfortunately, she does it every time I stir a cup now, even if I’m not headed out, but we’re working on it.

I don’t spend a lot of time outside with that first cup of tea. Ten, maybe twenty minutes of being surrounded by the early morning sounds is all I need to start my day. Lately I’ve added reading the Washington Post to my routine, but that’s a bonus. The real joy is in being able to sit outside in the morning, sip my tea, pen in hand, and start my day.

This week, though, I learned what a fragile lie that is.

For the last month or more, we’ve had no rain. Every morning has been fairly similar – partly cloudy skies, bright blue patches, sun rising, birds singing and frolicking on the fence. But one day this week, it rained in the morning. My entire fragile schedule was devastated, and to be honest I never quite recovered that day. It made me realize just how amazing being able to go outside in the mornings and journal with a cup of tea is – and how short lived it is. This week it was a rainy day. But soon, the temperatures will also start dropping, and while Portland doesn’t get too cold, it can be uncomfortable to try and write outside first thing in the morning. I also know (because I am inane and track this sort of thing in my daily planner) that sunrise is being pushed a minute forward every day. I’ve been getting up by 6/6:30 and outside by no later than 7. But today sunrise wasn’t until 06:03. My mornings outside are running short whether I want them to or not.

And so I am now planning on how to adapt to the changing seasons. There truly has been something liberating about sitting outside in the morning that I don’t want to let go of. I have limited workspace inside, but what space I have is truly all mine (within reason). Now is the time to get it setup, I think, while I still have the luxury of working outside.

So how do you all start your mornings? Surely everyone else isn’t just rushing straight to the work desk. Let me know in the comments. And happy Saturday!