Looking at an alder, early in the morning

Early in the day is not the time to make plans
but rather to contemplate what’s around you

It may sound odd, particularly to those still employed, but the freedom to do nothing when one retires brings a certain guilt, not to mention boredom. What should we do to justify our consumption of the earth’s oxygen and sunlight during the next twenty-four hours?

Most retirees in San Miguel seem to embrace hobbies, volunteering and socializing with a fury, as if any blank space in their calendars were a mortal sin.

During her late eighties, her physical faculties failing, my mom counseled me that “you’ve just got to do something to pass the time.” So she knitted, went on trips with other old people, attended classes. It’s a simplistic-sounding regimen that sure beats depression, drinking or other fake ways to replace what used to be the nine-to-five grind.

Even after eleven years, occasionally I find that retirement—having the freedom to do whatever I want, including nothing—can be stressful in its own right.

Following Stew’s lead, a few months ago I began jotting down daily “to-do” lists in a small red notebook. The lists became a mixture of what really didn’t really need doing, with a few urgent items that called for more time that was available during my waking hours.

A couple of years ago my friend Fred was visiting and he said “I bet you come out here on the terrace and have a cup of coffee every morning.” In fact, I never did, in no small measure because I was dealing with my to-do lists.

Anyone who’s visited our house marvels at the views from our back terrace: A sloping valley below, covered with black soil awaiting sowing, or later on in the season, stalks of corn swaying in the breeze; small herds of sheep and cattle lumbering around, going one way in the morning and returning at sunset; a man-made lake behind that; and still farther away, partially hidden behind a bluish haze, a small mountain range.

It’s an amazing grace to have that spectacle right beyond our terrace,  a shame we don’t take more time to enjoy it.

So, following Fred’s advice, this week I’ve been crawled out of bed before my second cup of coffee and sat in an old patio chair for a half-hour, forty-five minutes, to contemplate the landscape to my left, and to my right, the rays of sunlight flickering  through the alder abutting our terrace, the leaves always shaking nervously at the slightest breeze.

Thanks for the reminder, Fred.

It’s not all quiet, though. The five dogs have quickly caught on to my routine and now come discreetly, one by one by one, and lick my right elbow and demand a scratch on the chin or a pat on the head, followed by a few kind words they will not understand but enjoy thoroughly anyway. From there, they go on with the rest of their days, which include mostly nothing interrupted by eating and few barks now and again.


5 thoughts on “Looking at an alder, early in the morning

  1. I've taken to having my coffee on the terraza every morning. It's a nice place to start my day. It's the little things that make life worthwhile.As for guilt, it's an unproductive emotion.If you compare your life to other people's you will always find someone who does more, and also people who do less. There are people who live lives of service and those who indulge in the perpetual cocktail party, my life is somewhere in between.regards,Theresa


  2. That's a lovely, thoughtful comment. And you're right that guilt is unproductive, like resentments. It deals with something in the past.Better take your coffee early, though. It's in the low nineties here and it must be even hotter in Merida!Abrazos,alfredo


  3. Anonymous

    Hola Alfredo!I like your new routine of enjoying your coffee and view together. Frankly, if you aren't going to stop and smell the roses at this stage of you life, then when? Saludos,Kim GRedding, CAWhere the morning is becoming the only time when it's not intolerably hot outside.


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