Now that I’m teaching full-time again, there is nothing more beautiful than a quiet Saturday on my own. My wife is usually at work and my teenage son disappears for the day with his friends, so this is my one day a week that I get a reprieve from the responsibilities of work and family. While many would take the opportunity to lie in bed past eight o’clock, I instead slink out of bed so as not to disturb the cats and then stumble to the kitchen before anyone else is awake to prepare the French press. After exactly four minutes, I find my favourite cup I purchased from a local potter at the farmers’ market and the smell of strong black coffee instantly ignites my senses. Before I walk to my office, I have taken my first slurp and I let slip a soft moan of pleasure.
The golden sun pours in from the west windows above my writing desk and I either open my journal to a fresh page before filling my fountain pen or I crack my fingers before madly typing away on a laptop that needs a proper cleaning after years of traveling in my backpack. I do my best work in the morning, and I soon settle into my chair to research obscure Irish history for my current project or I write another story about getting into awkward situations (which usually involves my terrible sense of direction).
What a beautiful thing it is to have time melt away. I never know what the hour will be when I emerge out of the deep recesses of my mind and return to the ‘real’ world. Sometimes only an hour has passed and I have composed a thousand words; other times I emerge to find myself in the mid-afternoon with three or four thousand words on the page. At this point, I am usually hungry and head into the kitchen. If I am lucky there is some soft French cheese, some locally sourced chorizo, and my wife’s chutney in the fridge. Together, with my mother-in-law’s seedy bread, I am in culinary heaven.
By early afternoon, I am ready to stretch my legs. I wedge myself into my old Volkswagen, take off across the flats, park at the edge of the wild woods full of large animals that usually leave me alone and, after pulling up my stretchy shorts, I begin my weekly run. I often witness the changing of the seasons as I take my familiar route through the wetlands, the shadowy forest and the open farmland. Spring turns to summer and the dragonflies zip by me; summer turns to autumn and everything bursts with wondrous beauty; autumn turns to winter and the snow falls in quiet symphony; winter releases its icy hold and spring once again brings all shades of green back to the valley.
Driving home, sweaty and full of endorphins, I give myself a moment to appreciate how everything around me erupts in colour and light. And I am reminded that the secret of happiness is not fame and fortune, but to be constantly aware of the beauty of simple things.