birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Routine Fits Like A Velvet Glove

Routine is as comfortable to my psyche as hot chocolate in front of a fireplace on a snowy night. I could change it of course, but I would no more want to change my routine than I would want a root canal. I’m glad I’m not a spy who needs to change his routine daily. Routine fits me like a velvet glove. I wake up at virtually the same time day after day. 4:53 am. I have my automatic coffee maker set to start at 4:50 so by the time I get to the kitchen it is ready. I pour myself a cup, using the same cup, bought from Bennington Potters in Vermont, without turning any lights on. It will remain dark for another 2 hours. Then, in my robe, I walk up to my office, turn on the four lights, in the same sequence every day, turn on the computer and check my e-mails. After dealing with any issues that have arisen, I then crack open the book I’m reading and start reading. In the old days before computers I would take marginal notes and underline. Today all the marginalia go onto the computer file. I’m always reading 2 or three books at once, so if I find myself getting tired I switch books. 

Around 7 am I dressed for my walk which will be either a long one of 8 to 9 miles or a shorter one of 4 1/2 miles that I will repeat later in the day. I have three routes I use if I’m not specifically attending to chores. I bring my backpack in case I have to carry anything back. The walks are very relaxing if tiring. People have asked me if I listen to music while I walk since these walks can last between 2 and 3 hours. No, I don’t listen to music. I just think. I’ve discovered there’s a lot of interesting stuff in my mind, like a huge flea market.

Once I’m back, I return to my desk and will continue. If I’ve attended to chores, namely, food shopping, I will put the food away and start looking at the dishes I’m considering making. In the old days, I entertained much more, plus I had three children living with me three times a week, so there was a lot more cooking. Now, I’m mostly making dishes in order to photograph them. The first order of business is to scale down the recipes that might yield 8 servings so I have just one photographable serving. That’s harder than it sounds, and some recipes can’t be reduced because part of their magnificence is there impressive size, like the pasticcio di lasagna alla Napoletana that I promised to make for the boys for their back-to-back birthdays next month. Basically, it’s a complex homemade lasagna with pork ragoût, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, baked in a huge pie crust.

By early afternoon I’m considering my second walk, assuming I didn’t do 8 miles in the morning. My goal is 8 miles a day, so the second walk is usually 2 to 4 miles. Once that’s done, I’m back to start preparing food or reading a bit more. I have a routine of drinks through the day. In the morning it’s coffee, black, very hot. By mid-morning I drink sparkling water, diet coke, or orzata, an Italian almond soda that I make from scratch using soda water and almond syrup. Around three I drink flowering honeybush tea, recently discovered by me which I love or this Russian tea I also love that an old girlfriend left. If I’m feeling a bit tired I have an espresso instead. Not a fancy, real, espresso, but one off those ones you make through these little Italian-made stove-top percolators.

Around 4 pm, it’s time for a shower and a shave, and I leave the office for the rest of the day. After the shower I sit in the kitchen and read, with my drink of choice. I read one of the two subscriptions I get, The New York Review of Books or the New Yorker, or a book of fiction, which I’m not reading at the moment. I’ve been eating dinner earlier than usual the past few years, partly because of the natural light I need for the photos and partly because years ago I developed acid reflux as a result of eating too late. Now I eat between 5:30 and 6 which suits me fine. After dinner, I read for a bit and then recognize the day as coming to a close. By 7 I’m quite tired and watch Netflix of Amazon Prime. Usually I search for a movie, but if I feel really tired I watch shorter things as I know I won’t make it. By 9 pm I’m struggling to stay awake and I although I’ve been watching on my bed, knowing that if I actually undress and get under the covers I’m a goner, now I undress. Once under the covers I set myself up cozy like, and set the timer for the TV as I hate waking up at 2 am with the TV blasting. Now, the last part of the days routine is finding the nature show I usually watch while I fall asleep. For some reason cheetahs chasing gazelle or polar bears chasing seals is soporific. I slide into sleep and as every night in my life I sleep like a rock.

6 AM Blues