I wake early. It’s either light or dark, depending on the season, but always early. Some urge to catch the morning like the birds at my feeder. They come when the world is still grey, their red feathers still grey in the half light, their song held back until they have eaten, until they are full and can praise their meal with song.
I let my husband sleep. I am quiet, move silently on bare feet. I am wrapped in the cashmere shawl I scored at a yard sale.
I make strong sweet black tea, carry it to my office where I light candles and some mornings if there’s snow outside, I turn up the heater.
I sit on my daybed, soft quilt, five pillows. A large window with six glass panels face the Sangre de Christo mountains. The pinon trees. The juniper.
And I wait. I wait for the sun to crest the mountains. In the dark of winter it bursts through the glass pane farthest to the right. The sun is low in the sky. This is how I track the seasons, the return of the light as the sun moves right to left like the Hebrew I learned to read as a child.
I watch the sun rise through different panes of glass as winter melts and the crocuses elbow their way above ground, slipping out between the snow like naughty girls who defy the white witch of winter, putting on green dresses to mock her.
Now I sit and watch the sun rise and it is nearly to the farthest pane left. The sun blazes through the glass and taps me on the chest.
Sad? He asks. Didn’t exactly get the life you were expecting? Hmmm?
He tilts my face up so that I am dazzled by his warmth.
Let’s count, he says.
Yes. Let’s count what you might have overlooked today.
I’m thinking fast. The stove is off. The garbage is at the curb. The birds are fed.
The legs that got you out of bed. Strong Russian legs that are a gift from your ancestors.
I mumble, oh yeah, legs. Thanks.
Water for your tea.
Light. Clothing. Safety. Peace. The love of my friends and family.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
By now I’m staring into the full wattage of his hypnotic golden light and beg that it burn off the scales on my eyes.
Praise. For the dance that will move me when my legs grow weak.
Praise. For the song that I’ll sing when I am near the end of breath.
Praise. For the love that will endure with my husband when death do us part.
Praise. For my heart that has spilled over with love, has shattered with love, has mended with love and with love will pound out its praise with sticks rocks and stones on bare dirt if that is all that’s left.
Listen, I say. This is my heartbeat. I am here to praise night and the pulse of day.
I like to take the same walk
down the wide expanse of Woodrow to the ocean
and most days I turn left toward the lighthouse.
The sea is always different. Some days dreamy,
waves hardly waves, just a broad undulation
in no hurry to arrive. Other days the surf’s drunk,
crashing into the cliffs like a car wreck.
And when I get home I like
the same dishes stacked in the same cupboards
and then unstacked and then stacked again.
And the rhododendron, spring after spring,
blossoming its pink ceremony.
I could dwell in the kingdom of Coltrane,
the friction of air through his horn
as he forms each syllable of Lush Life
over and over until I die. Once I was afraid
of this, opening the curtains every morning,
only to close them again each night.
You could despair in the fixed town of your own life.
But when I wake up to pee, I’m grateful
the toilet’s in its usual place, the sink with its gift of water.
I look out at the street, the halos of lampposts
in the fog or the moon rinsing the parked cars.
When I get back in bed I find
the woman who’s been sleeping there
each night for thirty years, only she’s not
the same, her body more naked
in its aging, its disorder. Though I still
come to her like a beggar. One morning
one of us will rise bewildered
without the other and open the curtains.
There will be the same shaggy redwood
in the neighbor’s yard and the faultless stars
going out one by one into the day.
Ellen Bass. Ode to Repetition.