My alarm goes off and for the first time in months, I don’t hit the snooze button. Fumbling in the semi darkness of the bedroom, I find a sweatshirt and pull it over my head, hurry downstairs, and pour myself a hot cup of coffee. Eager to get going, I slap peanut butter and jelly on some bread. I check the time, and wake my oldest, who promises to wake her siblings.
Coffee in hand, I grab my purse and head to my car. It’s still dark, but light is beginning to hover around the horizon. Everything feels muted and soft, quiet and still. As I drive through town, I think about the conversation I had with my husband several days earlier when he asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday. What I told him then was that I didn’t know.
I tend to have a go-with-the-flow attitude about a lot of things. I’m a peacemaker; I want everyone to be happy and get along. When someone asks me what I’d like to do or where I’d like to go, I generally shrug my shoulders because, the truth is, I often don’t care that much. I’m happy to be with the people I love and the rest of it isn’t as important.
But my husband’s question got me thinking about what I really wanted. If my birthday was on a Monday, then it would be up to me to figure out how to make it special. My family would be at work or school, and I’d have half the day to myself.
What do I want? became the chief question — but out of that sprang others: What do I love to do? What makes me feel alive? What can I do on an ordinary Monday that will fill me with gratitude? What would an almost perfect day look like?
These are the questions that led me to this moment, driving up the long lane of the golf course — the one place in town where I can see the eastern sky, where I can watch the sunrise on the morning of my 46th birthday.
When I reach the parking lot, I am surprised to find many of the parking spaces full of equipment — bulldozers, backhoes, and gravel — and a crew just getting starting work in the early light of dawn. Their safety vests reflect the light from the headlights of my car as I search for a place to park.
A bit disappointed not to have this space to myself, I park in the only spot I can, and hurry out with my coffee and a blanket. I walk around the gravel and orange cones to the small wooden gazebo that overlooks the valley below, and the Catawba Mountains beyond that. I sit down, arranging my Mexican blanket and cup of coffee beside me, then take a deep breath.
I see pink light as it begins to form along the line between the sky and what lies beneath. Above the pink, the sky appears white, then dark blue. As the light continues to spill over the horizon, I notice how each mountain ridge is defined. Fog is filling in the spaces between the ridges.
I hear the crew behind me speaking in Spanish, and I am reminded of the past two summers when I traveled with my family to Central America. I listen for a few minutes, picking out words here and there that I know, the rhythm and intonation in their voices reminding me of this language I love.
As I watch, the fog slides between the ridges and along the valleys. Moments later, the fog begins to obscure the ridges and starts to fill in the valley directly below me. Instead of watching the sun come up over the ridge below, I am watching something else entirely. Fog has engulfed the entire valley, obscuring the sun and is making its way up toward the golf course. Soon there is nothing but fog.
I gather my blanket and now empty cup of coffee and turn towards the car. As I make my way home, I think about how foggy mornings have their own kind of beauty — sometimes haunting, sometimes revealing the world in a whole new way. Instead of color, there are shades of gray. The silhouettes of trees stand out, graceful and dark against a lighter background.
Pondering the questions I had asked myself just a few days before, it occurs to me that what fills me up has nothing to do with things — not gifts or material possessions. None of the ways I wanted to spend this day anything to do with those. I have come to this conclusion time and time again but marvel at the simplicity of it. What fills me up are experiences; what grounds me are relationships
There are a few other things on my list for the day: a good cup of coffee, lunch alone with a cold beer and a plate of nachos, time to read in the sunshine on a warm day, a walk, a conversation with my sister, greeting my kids as they came home from school, tacos from our local taco truck for dinner on the front porch, a bouquet of zinnias, a round of Bananagrams. These are things that could be done any day, but today they are special.
Just like the sun, which rises every single day. Some days we might choose to bear witness to its beauty. A series of decisions just might lead to an ordinary Monday becoming something extraordinary.