Dawn comes early now, as April gives way to May.
Just as we had planned when we built our home so many years ago, when our children were young and we were too, the first sun of morning fires the sky and shines through our bedroom window coloring the walls and bedding with a soft red glow.
The window is open and the night breeze has cooled our room. I pull the blankets to my nose, but no further so I can inhale the sweet scent of freshly mowed grass from the evening before. It's especially sweet since someone else did the mowing instead of me.
Morning has broken and it's the most gentle, warm spring morning of the year. I should get out of bed and greet the day.
There are places that I should be, but nowhere that I have to be. So I fall back asleep; not a deep sleep, just a slumber, a few more minutes with my eyes gently closed. I awake to a dream that I'm taking a college final exam and I haven't been to class or read one assignment all semester.
It's a common dream. And in my case it was also true so it's a bit of a nightmare and I decide it's maybe time to rise before more of my past comes back to haunt me.
I stretch, roll over and as the sun brightens and burns the red hue of the room away, my feet find the floor. I stumble to the closet and put on a comfortable, loose-fitting sweat suit.
My wife has risen, too, and as she heads down the stairs and toward the kitchen I delay my progress so she'll have to fight with the Kreuig coffee machine to make it work and I can get a fresh cup as soon as my feet touch the cool kitchen floor. I open the porch door off the kitchen and discover that for the first time all year it is warm enough at the break of day to take my coffee outside. A gentle breeze floats through the porch screens. The back yard, filled with trees sprouting baby leaves, is still well shaded as the sun sits low on the horizon, taking its time to rise in the blue sky.
The day is fresh, unused. By evening it will have a different, spent feel. But now it's like a new shirt you put on for the first time and it will never feel so fresh again.
Squirrels with long gray tails deftly climb the black poles we have placed around the garden and finally hang upside down to gorge on birdseed. When the squirrels are too fat to eat one seed more they retreat and the birds come in waves, each group chasing the one before it away. Bright red cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, blue jays and many more take their first snack of the day. Black and white downy woodpeckers pound at suet hung on our tree trunks. By and by our big black, white and red pileated woodpecker makes his morning call and the others birds respectfully clear away.
Morning is passing. Time is passing much too quickly. But the birds are singing back and forth to one another – or maybe just to me. So I get another cup of coffee, breathe deep and can almost see the plants of spring growing and blooming before my eyes.
There are orchids on the tree that weren't there yesterday. Little purple flowers have popped in my wife's spring garden at the edge of our white porch. A yellow bumblebee buzzes through his appointed rounds.
I have so much to do. I can see little things that need my attention in the yard and garden and chores around the home remind me how long I have ignored them. There is a book I am writing and upcoming talks to complete.
But the birds are whistling: "phew-too-too-too . . . phew-too-too-too," "fweet, fweet." My hazelnut coffee, with a touch of pure whipping cream, is hot and good. The air is clean and each deep breath I take fills me with the joy of life.
I've lived long now. I've spent too much time working and too little time watching, listening and breathing spring.
So the responsibilities of this day will wait. They will wait while I drink my coffee. They will wait while the birds sing and the bees buzz, the baby leaves quiver in the breeze and the squirrels devour our birdseed. I am retired now, and they will wait.
Retirement is wonderful. You have to labor long and hard to reach it. But there is life on the other side of the work-a-day world.
And when you get there it is heaven.
Copyright John Norberg