Day 103: Joy in this normal.

It’s not yet 7 a.m., and the world is waking up beyond the sanctuary of my back deck.

Birds start their morning chirping hellos at one another, cloistered and invisible among the leaves. Western Avenue hums.

In spite of the drama during last week’s farmers market, I came home with an armload of tiny herbs that I planted up in long, terra cotta–colored plastic containers: basil, rosemary, parsley, lemon thyme, dill. Chives from an upstairs neighbor have been happily, floppily making themselves at home for weeks.

The neighbor smokes a cigarette, barefoot on his own deck. He frantically shoos the dog back from some peril, reeling into the wet grass as he whispers shouted reprimands.

We sometimes share a nod as he disappears behind the sliding glass door to the kitchen.

Not today.

The deck is swept clean, and the rare blessing of a cool morning breeze dances over the tops of my bare feet.

This is the normal I cherish.

Early mornings, before Mark’s alarm stirs him awake, before River discovers the energy to claw at the screen door begging for food.

I make my coffee, measuring beans to the gram and grinding them as the water comes to temperate. Swirling water over the grounds in the paper filter of the Chemex and patiently awaiting the bitter fruits of that small labor. Depending on how I’m feeling, maybe a glug of almond milk, a tip of handmade vanilla syrup gifted by friends.

The New York Times crossword is my unbroken routine, more than 530 days in a row. My morning haven, a few minutes of ordering the world to lock in perfectly, letter by letter.

Awkward crosses, naticks, and amateurish fill be damned: My joy waits quietly in the acrosses and downs, every morning without fail.

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