Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Breaking Routine

My routine had been broken. I broke it. In spite of all I had to do, I persuaded my wife to explore part of the Maine coast with me. In spite of all she had to do, she accompanied me. We did it my way - without a specific plan about where we were going to stay for the two nights we’d be gone from our bed. The general destination was Bath and the peninsula to the south. The weather was great as I drove down every road, walked through every cemetery and read every historic marker. She found eight sand dollars on the beach. Of the two restaurants in which we ate dinner, one was okay and the other was first-rate.

We returned Sunday. Instead of beginning my column while watching the Patriots’ game as would have been my habit in the fall, I caught up on some of the caretaking work, figuring I still had Monday, Columbus Day, to write. When I sat on the porch with my laptop, however, it wasn’t flowing. I hadn’t enough time to process all that I’d seen and done and there was no logical sequence to what was emerging as my fingers manipulated the keyboard. Maybe I wouldn’t submit anything this week.

Sometimes it helped if I got up and did something else because when I sat back down, it would flow. I went into the kitchen and made some spaghetti sauce in the crock pot and returned to my laptop, but it didn’t work. My grandson was on the porch with me playing quietly with some construction toys while his mother worked a 12-hour shift at Bridgton Hospital. He smelled the sauce and asked when dinner would be ready. My wife was puttering around her flower garden below us and the sun was getting ready to set over Kearsarge Mountain to the west. Brilliant golden rays backlit her silver hair as she moved about. The maples below the field were bright yellow and red, and with every little puff of breeze, hundreds of leaves drifted gently down from the three big ash trees around her garden. It was quiet enough that I could hear a little crackle as each leaf as it came down on others already fallen.

Seeing this, my grandson forgot his appetite and said, “Let’s go out and catch them!” His eyes were so bright I couldn’t say “No. I have to write this column,” though it was almost on my tongue. Instead, I said, “Yeah, let’s go!” We ran back through the house and out, trying to reach the leaves before they hit the ground but we were too late. He was disappointed, but I said, “Wait. They’ll start falling again as soon as the air moves.” Soon, trees on the hillside below began to move slightly and another cascade of ash leaves drifted down on us, some in clumps of three or four. We scurried about catching as many as we could. For a few minutes at least, he brought out the six-year-old boy in me which had been cooped up too long.

So much wonder showed on his face in the horizontal autumn sun that I went back inside for my camera. The laptop was still on the chair, but I went back out to record images instead of words. As he scampered and rolled around the leaf-covered grass, I clicked over a hundred. He was so caught up that no self-consciousness entered his countenance as I attempted to preserve the moments. Then I used the laptop to take in pictures instead of putting out words. The sun had set below Kearsarge. The horizon and clouds above were backlit and darkness creeped in as I examined each image on the screen. There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch and I burned a CD for his mother.

Routines are good when it comes to eating and sleeping, but breaking patterns can be good for us too and I have the pictures to prove it, each worth a thousand proverbial words.

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