I am, by nature, an early bird.
Even as a kid, I was always the first one up. I love the silence of mornings, the intimacy of dawn, that first cup of coffee that is as much a sacramental ritual as a jolt of caffeine.
I can be a night owl, if I have to be, but my true time of day is morning. The cats and I have a routine: treats, food, coffee and now that I’m retired: play time. I watch the news on TV while they chase a feather on the end of a stick. I start laundry, make hummingbird food, fill the bird baths – often before 6 a.m.
I inspect the garden, pour another cup of coffee, watch the sun break through the canopy of trees, listen to the chorus of birds on the other side of the window. Friends call early; they know my habits. Sometimes, I sit while we talk, look out the window, greet the day with conversation and a cup of Joe. Other times, I make good use of the time and empty drawers, start projects, wash pots and pans or unload the dishwasher while we chat.
The one thing I don’t do anymore is make lists.
For years, I have been a dedicated to-do list maker. It was the only way I could balance home, work and volunteering; the only way I could stay on track. When my husband got sick, I didn’t need a list. In the mornings, I had to give him a shower, then breakfast, then get him dressed. For more years than anyone knew, he needed care, constant around the clock care. When we no longer lived under the same roof, mornings were my refuge, a quiet space before spending the day with him at the assisted living center he called home. I fed him lunch and sometimes dinner, trying to create a sense of what once was out of a very different reality.
So for now, I’m giving myself the gift of time. I’m learning to look at life with new eyes, new vision. The significance of language is not lost on me. A year ago, I had cataract surgery on both eyes that changed my focus from severe myopia to seeing only in the distance.
I’m trying to do that in every day life, as well. It’s not easy, not when all I could do before was what was in front of me. It is a profound shift in viewpoints, a trust that I can look ahead – and that there is something to see.
I still greet the new day early. I probably always will. I love the morning’s light. I love the awakening of the Earth, no matter what the season. And there’s something else. At that hour, the whole day lies ahead. The possibilities are endless.
So are the distractions that show up, now that I’m not governed by lists. When I worked – first in a newsroom, then as a free-lancer – I couldn’t afford to be distracted by anything. There were deadlines to meet, interviews to hold, schedules to make, commitments to honor.
It is a familiar story for so many of us: no room to breathe; no detours. So for now, I dare to wander, even if at times I feel unproductive or that somehow I am living an aimless life. After all, I am the granddaughter of a dairy farmer who believed work was its own reward and contributed to one’s self-worth. I agree, mostly. For most of my life, I have needed to feel productive, to contribute, to arrive at day’s end having accomplished something.
But for right now, I’m taking a break. I’m enjoying the moment. If I get sidelined on the way to some task or if a friend calls for a spur-of-the-moment lunch or plans never materialize for the day and I wander my way from morning to night – so be it.
It helps to remember J.R.R. Tolkien’s wise words that “Not all those who wander are lost.”
So I’m learning. I’m learning to see life in a new rhythm, to hear the promise of a new day with believing ears, to focus and then let go – because tomorrow, there is a new dawn, a new day.
You just have to see it for yourself.
Susan Harrison Wolffis is an award winning writer known for her engaging writing style.