I am thinking of the ways we return to, the paths we beat daily with our foot steps. Whether we go for a morning jog, enjoy a cup of coffee by the window or outside the cafe, or spend those first minutes of the morning reading or meditating. These are the things we do that make us the people we become.
I am also thinking of the deeper routines, the routines of thought that underlie the behaviors we select. Why do we get up to run? Why do we have that cup of coffee? Why do we write?
For many years I conducted a search for a perfect “morning routine,” one that would prepare me in the most robust way for a productive, creative day. Some days I woke up to write, other days to meditate, other days to do nothing but wait for inspiration to hit, and even then drift on through inspiration like a half-awake house cat, unimpressed, uncommitted, unmoved.
Now I am thinking of trees. The way they start out young and flimsy, available for any shape, any fate, any conversation with the bigger forest around them. They can be bent, broken or chopped. They can develop multiple branching and become long and spindly. They can grow up to be just like the trees around them that have lasted – firm, tall, and true.
Mostly, small trees grow and do become larger trees. Their wood grows around them, thicker and thicker, while the imagined variety of possible forms becomes less and less diverse. The maturing tree, with each passing morning, adds more and more wood, becoming more and more itself, and less and less what it may have been. It becomes more solidly fixed in its decided, wooden form.
I think I have been like that small tree for so many years. Trying out this and that, wanting to stay fit, young, alert, capable, diverse, and most of all, not feel myself pinned down to any path that felt deadening or stiffening. Even more, to preserve the choice to be everything and nothing, to be great in all the potential ways, in fact drunk on that potential, smitten like that one by the pool-side, gazing at his own reflection, frozen by the bliss of a never-ending might-could-be.
Today I feel a different impulse emerging, that has been growing for years, I think perhaps even contained in that initial acorn of my hatchling consciousness, 37 years ago. The desire to grow (up). The desire to “wooden.” The desire to pick a form and its inevitable limits, to move humbly along a chosen path, perhaps to not be great in some other promising avenue, perhaps to not gain fame in another, perhaps to die earlier than I might otherwise die, closed in and confined and locked out of immortality by the inevitable caving in that human choice prefigures.
I am thinking of Lorca, who shuffled each morning down those dusty cobblestoned streets of Spain to enjoy a morning coffee, and then to return home to write. Who lived simply and committedly as a poet and activist and was shot at 38. I know little about his life, but something about that short (perhaps inaccurate) biography points to something I want: A life, however short, with real meaning and conviction.