I wrote this piece one summer morning while sitting outside. As I started to eat my Kaffegraut (Norweigan Semolina Porridge) I had the sudden realization that despite my existential questions, I had a good life. It was a great moment in an otherwise completely usual pandemic day.

My slotted wooden bench is not a comfortable companion; but when combined with the improvisational melody of the leaves and the welcoming warmth of the sun on my skin, the seat is grounded and good. Sitting outside early in the morning, I don’t feel like an intruder on the land, but a member of its family. The overstory of the Magnolia provides shade to read, and its swaying branches calm my mind. I look up at its maze of dark gnarled branches that drift upwards into the sky. I take a mental picture and wonder if I could draw these beautiful interwoven branches.

My stomach growls interrupting my thoughts. It’s time to eat. The table is set. On its weathered top is my small plate of two yellow scrambled eggs. I cook them in an iron skillet with shredded cheddar cheese for extra iron and Vitamin D. On the right of the eggs is my mug of coffee. The mug was a gift from my eleven-year-old daughter last Hanukkah. It’s a bit larger than a normal mug with black feather prints carefully spaced between little swirls of blue, red, and green. Ever since my daughter gave me this mug, I drink from it every morning. It’s as if she’s sitting here with me quiet yet providing me company.

The steam from the coffee floats slowly up, blurring into the greenery of the hundreds of lilies of the valley under the magnolia. Like the branches above it’s trying to escape into the sky. I hug the mug with my hands to feel its heat flow through my fingers and palms up my wrist and into my cheeks and lips. I smile. I’m frozen by the warmth. A brief blip in time where I feel still on my back porch and somewhere else far away in the same moment. It’s time that I’m happy to embrace even if it’s for ten seconds or less.

My stomach’s angry cries again pull me back to focus. My eggs and my book greet me from the corner of my eye. I turn and dig into both. It’s an art form to balance my breakfast on a fork gracefully with one hand while turning a page with the other. I devour the words. I read long past my breakfast is gone. Thirty minutes? Forty? The time goes by quickly as the book takes me further away from under the magnolia tree. Mother Nature helped me escape into myself, and the book transports me to another city in a different country. I’m part of a new story.

The morning doesn’t last forever. I have other responsibilities with family and work. I want to freeze time here where I can continue to be where my coffee is warm and the mug is bottomless, where the breeze cools me fighting the sun’s mission to warm my skin. It’s a peaceful battle that I don’t want to leave. I can’t freeze time. My mug isn’t bottomless, and soon my daughter calls for me. This time I have away and right here always ends, but when I stand up and gather my things, I book a return trip for the same time tomorrow.