Random Thoughts of a Morning Person

Waterfront Park, Charleston, DC
Morning calm in Charleston, SC. Taken during a visit to the town a few years ago.

I don’t know when I became a morning person. I just know that I haven’t always been one. For example, in college, I seemed to be the most productive at night. That was when I was able to churn out “A” quality essays and research papers. I would spend my days working, interning, doing reading assignments or conducting research but evening time was when all that day time business came to fruitation because it was the work I did at night that appeared before my professors and earned me my grade—not all that behind-the-scenes activity I did during normal waking hours. Continue reading

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Reflections During the Waning Dog Days of Summer

Life has started to slow down here on Wyndham Circle. While tiny signs of fall have struggled to emerge, they have been quickly stomped out by summer’s jealous heat and humidity. The DC area is a former swamp, after all.

Today I am indulging in a day off from work. Part of the reason is because my new accent chair was to be delivered today, but the biggest reason is that I simply needed a break. Time is precious. Work is important but so is free time to do what I want, even if it is nothing at all.

I have a colleague at work with ties to North Africa and Italy. He works in the peace building space with a focus on Libya and North Africa and the roles Europe and the United States play in the efforts to relieve the political turmoil taking place in that part of the world. Yesterday he told me about a friend of his who like him, is also an Italian working on the ground in areas of strife and unrest. This particular friend of his survived the war and violence of Afghanistan, the dangerous environment of North Africa, and the ferociousness of much of the Middle East only to come home to Italy after working in these areas of tumult so he could be killed in his own bed under his own roof during one of the strongest earthquakes Italy has seen in recent history. “Death has a strange sense of humor,” my colleague told me somberly.

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My office for today is my small, but comfortable home. My company is my cat and the friends I am calling who I have not spoken to in months. I am reminded that days like this should be treasured.

I remember his words on my day off work, during these waning dog days of summer; a day when I have peace and quiet, calmness and contentment and not the stress and exhaustion that is part of my daily job. I am spending this day in my small but beautiful home, enjoying my time on this earth and the simple pleasures that come with it. I am calling friends I have not seen or spoken to in ages. I am eating healthy food that also brings me delight. I am thinking how wonderful it is that I have been blessed to enjoy days like this when there are so many people in this world who are truly suffering. I am remembering that life is like the Wheel of Fortune. Some days/months/years are good and happy ones and some are difficult, depressing and severe, but that nothing—except death—is permanent. And for that reason, nothing should be taken for granted.

Enjoy the simple pleasures in your life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Seasonal Shifts

This time of year in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, something shifts in the atmosphere. It’s very slight, but also very noticeable. The sun’s patterns begin to change, the nights get a shade darker, the air oh-so-graudally begins to dry out. The mornings are a tinge cooler, the evenings a little more comfortable. It’s not so much that the seasons begin to change this time in August as much as it is the fact that summer is simply coming to an end.

I’ve seen this subtle transformation take place in different parts of the world, and I’ve seen how different cultures respond to it. In Kyrgyzstan where I did my Peace Corps service, the people of the Chui Valley start the canning process, preserving their fruits and vegetables while the harvest is plentiful and healthy. Beets, onions, berries, cherries, pickles, carrots and peaches. All of it stuffed tightly into jars with salts and seasonings, sugars and spices, stored away for those long winter days and nights that are not too far away.

In South Korea, you know summer is coming to an end when you start to see red chili peppers drying out in the sun on top of blankets and tarps spread out on the sidewalks. No doubt these fiery delights are being prepped for the autumnal kimchi crop, soon to be packed into clay pots along with a variety of salts and seasonings where they will ferment with a mixture of cabbage, scallions, and sometimes dried fish, all part of the age-old process of producing one of the country’s traditional side dishes—a product of huge national pride.

Yes, there are many ways the world reacts to the end of summer.

Soju on the rug

This year in our home, the end of summer coincides with our continuous home decorating efforts. Our bare condo is slowly showing signs of warmth and comfort, and even though our work would have taken place no matter what time of year I purchased and moved into the place, the “nesting” activities only further emphasize the coming fall ahead. Just a few days ago the new braided rug arrived for the master bedroom, covering the hard bamboo floors with a cushion of softness and traditional coziness, reminiscent of my childhood days growing up in rural Minnesota in a home full of beautiful braided rugs, often with a dog lying on top. Of course, now that I am on my own the dog has been replaced a cat, but the tradition of creating an inviting sense of warmth that was so prominent in my childhood house continues in my “adult” abode.

I’ve even noticed my music playlist gradually changing. The Nicki Minaj, Enrique Iglesias, SWAAY and Jason Derulo tunes are being swapped out for James Taylor, Nora Jones, The Zach Brown Band and Alison Krauss songs. And alas, the kitchen table is not being spared either as it sees less watermelon and more spaghetti squash.

Summer is ending. What changes are you making as you prepare for the transition into fall?