Morning in Summer
I wake to the alarm and my first thoughts are what day is it what am I doing where do I have to go? It’s Monday, I’m rolling out of bed to make lunch for my husband to take to work, and I don’t have to go anywhere.
This is how I wake almost everyday, with these sudden thoughts and the same answers. I don’t have to go anywhere and this is my preference, but I still wake with immediate questions.
My feet are curved like bridges when I touch the floor for the first time and I have to carefully hobble to turn off the alarm, which I keep in the bathroom for insurance against the snooze button. I stretch the arches slowly back into the flattened shape of pedestrians everywhere, the way God intended them. They curl up like this at night, like wet slips of copy paper. I don’t know why. I forget about it each night, and when I’m thinking my first thoughts in the morning, it never occurs to me to be careful. Must stop alarm. I start out quick and then quickly slow down.
My feet sufficiently flattened, I pad Neanderthal-like to the kitchen for the first duties: sandwich, granola bar, fruit, drink. I pack his lunch and think he must be awfully tired of this same meal.
Whatever I do next depends on the other people in the house. Sometimes my son is leaving at 5, my husband at 6, and my daughter at 7. That’s two hours of good morning, where are you working today, more coffee, have a good day, be safe. I am the flexible one, staying home with the sleeping teenager who’s still carefree in his summer slumber. I am the refrigerator, the oven, the washcloth, the laundry basket. It’s easier to be all these things these days because my people are big people, busy with their own schedules, minimally home. I have more time to be the garden hose, the keypad, the bird feeder, the lawnmower.
At 7:30 I make a second espresso, thick with heavy cream, and promise to drink only water the rest of the day. I gather books and pens and sit cross-legged on the floor, stretching my hips and moving the dogs away from my cup. I read. I think. I scribble notes about Levitical laws with question marks pocking the page and I pray.
More stretching. I roll out my mat and purposefully breathe through the good pain, necessary for me to walk upright. My ligaments are tighter everyday I think, and I commit to making that chiropractic appointment I’ve been putting off. It will hurt and it’s necessary.
I put my cup in the sink and call the dogs outside, slipping into the blue crocks we keep by the backdoor. They are family shoes, meaning most of us can slip them on; also meaning they are rarely where they belong.
I spray the flowers in the yard and move the sprinkler to another patch of browning grass, soaking myself in the process of getting the settings just right. How much water will it take to green this up again? It’s not crunchy yet, so I’m hopeful.
I duck the hotwire strung across the gate and walk to the garden, just to see things. The automatic waterers are all on timers and I have never had it so easy in the garden. I let it go wild this year—all the volunteer tomatoes and scattered zinnias and the weeds that have migrated. It's the best garden we’ve had in a long time and I am loving its wildness.
New dahlias are budded and I try to see what colors they will be, but it’s too early to tell. Waiting. The window boxes on the chicken coop are a wild fury of orange nasturtiums, purple and white petunias, and some sweet potato vines trying to peek their way through. Fullness. Wildness. Bounty. I fill my basket with the eager fruits of squash, zucchini, chard, and snow peas. The dogs and I breakfast on 3 marionberries and 10 over-ripe peas.
Back in the house I attend to various domestic duties—enough to make me feel okay about this job of keeping house. I make bouquets, squash bugs, feed the sourdough starter, and schedule the Roomba to come on at 10. I love the Roomba, let me tell you. I want to give one to every harried housekeeper, like the extra set of hands we always wish we had. I am spoiled with so many extra appendages, and I feel guilty but happy.
I start a load of laundry and sit down to make a list: edit my essay, catch up on emails, work on my tutor training, call the chiropractor, pay business and personal bills, order new football cleats for Ethan. Does even need cleats this year? A longer list would make me feel better, but instead I estimate the time for each item and the reality of my at-home job sets in. Everything takes so long and nothing really happens.
If I make a third espresso, it’s kind of like a second morning. I can start over. I get up from the computer and scoop fresh grounds of broken promises into my moka pot, turn the burner on high, and try to draw a conversation out of my youngest child. He’s reading Pride and Prejudice this summer to get ahead for school. Do you like it? Is it interesting? Are you almost done? No. Of course not. That’s okay—he is diligent, at least. Nothing ever happens in this book, he says.
I have saved all the unsavory work for this afternoon, and it’s making me grumpy. I go outside to fill up bird feeders and turn off the sprinkler, and I get distracted with weeds. The dirt under my nails makes me feel good. By the time I get back inside for the bills and the phone calls, it’s time to think about dinner.
The rest of the day goes like this: people are in and out and there’s no way for any focused work to happen; I didn’t get to everything on my list; dinner is boring but we talk, and that’s enough; I start a new list for tomorrow. I am the counselor, the companion, the pray-er, the Complaints Department and the one who preps the coffee pot for the morning. I am the one at home, trying to make it a place for everyone.
I wish mornings lasted longer. I wish I kept my morning-optimism all day long. I wish I had clear times for beginning and ending things, and that I could set my own day on timers. I have a beautiful life and this has strangely been one of the summers I’ve enjoyed most, not because of special events or trips, but just that God’s goodness is following me everywhere and I can see it. But stuck inside me are busy voices and I suppose, as the day drags on, I just start to lose my resilience.
I wrote this in my notebook the other morning:
The world is slow, at peace, lovely, serene and wild, inhabited and inhabitable. It’s green and gold—the color of money. There is a split second when the market is opening, stocks are frozen, perfect hues of August harvest and evergreen and sustainability set in the morning sun’s rise over the hill. It changes in a moment and everything is tinted blue, the cold color of missed opportunity.
Then, again, it is green and constant; golden and wealthy; gray and wise.
The morning is my currency. Nothing much happens these days, but if I look at things rightly I can find enough of everything to last the whole day.
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