It’s 9:00 on a Tuesday night and I’m doing dishes. I really don’t mind. I find the routine comforting. Kitchen chores ground me in time and space. My chapped hands do the work while my mind is free to wander the mountains outside my window. It’s summer sunset. Pink sky. I like the rhythm of ordinary tasks. My muscle memory connects me to my history. All the kitchens in my past line up on a Pinterest grid. This one is the tiniest. I tuck my elbows in a cockpit where everything I need is within arm’s reach. All my implements are in one drawer. This is the life I’ve created for myself. It’s physically very, very small. But the mountains are right outside my window. I depend on them to always be there, where I can see them. They’re the sprinkles on my brain chemistry.
It rained today for the second time since May. Just briefly. Early this morning there was mist in the air that felt like magic after so many weeks of dry heat baking the trees and the garden and my skin. Grey chiffon draped the valley and there was a deep sigh of relief. Ah, moisture. We were rescued from frying by the marine layer floating in from the Pacific and inserting itself between us and the sun. The porch was slick. Our lungs soothed. The dog got wet running in the meadow, and there were muddy paw prints on the floor for the first time since spring. Mud. It’s a sign of water.
Our hill is at the center of a sundial that maps time against shape, even in moonlight. Once I’m out of the kitchen my cohabitant will prepare the coffeemaker for tomorrow and set the timer for 6:00 am. In the morning there will be a line of two people at the coffee pot. I like mine black. He has a romance with French vanilla. The dog paces. Finally, all three of us have our morning fix and there is silence as we swipe our screens. Caffeine is the closest I get to euphoria.
Between cups of joe, we go for a morning walk around the loop that circles the house. It’s a ritual that orients me to the day. Gets my mental wheels turning. Structure. Like the sweeping hands of a clock. We live here because of the trees. Their old souls rise above us in a great conifer cathedral. The scale of the forest reminds me how fragile we are, how interdependent. And yet mischievous. Our morning walk is a prayer of thanks for the green.
It takes stamina to live this simply. We are conserving ourselves. For what, we don’t know. I miss life in the fast lane, the city, the restaurants and the rush of juicy conversation, the stylish clothes, and the status symbols. Here our entertainment is random. The coyote opera at night, the bird jazz at dawn. The stars flank my day, the Big Dipper pours darkness, and I appreciate the miracle of a good night’s sleep.
Basics give us comfort and security in the age of storms. Routine keeps us on track. We are not lost. This is our path. When we do things as we’ve always done them, the ordinary forms a bulwark against the possibility of chaos. And so, we commit to these habits, the familiar order of our time that gives us continuity. We’re strong because we’re focused on the long view, the mountains outside our window and the pink sunsets ahead. If I was giving you advice, I would say, do cherish the ordinary. Conserve yourself.