Sweet Routine

text and photographs by Brian Willson

In conversation with a friend today, I was reminded that I tend to be a man of routine. I’ve had the same breakfast pretty much every day for years. I’ve ridden my bicycle pretty much every dry day for the last two-three seasons. I’ve hiked Beech Hill with my dog every day since last October. Somehow I even manage to write a daily blog.

I’m not alone, of course—we all have our habits, fall into our ruts, do chores on particular weekdays, follow our public and private schedules. And then one day, we’ll break out of our rut and slip into another one.

But meantime, if we’re lucky, we’ll get really good at something. Something small and insignificant, maybe. We learn the finer points of doing laundry, or baking cookies, or trimming grass, or texting. I couldn’t text if my life depended on it, but I can type a hundred words a minute—on a regular keyboard. And I can tell the difference between the chip note of a savannah sparrow and a song sparrow.

On some nice, sunny days I don’t really feel like riding my bike, or even hiking Beech Hill. But I make myself do it anyway. And I’m nearly always glad I did. Today wasn’t one of those days. Oh, it was a nice and (mostly) sunny one, but I didn’t have to force myself to do anything. I was perfectly content to follow my sweet routine.

The bike ride was outstanding. Got my pulse high, got my sweat glands working. Heard blue jays along the way and rode fast and close to roadside crows, to see if they would fly. (They didn’t.) And Beech Hill was lovely in the afternoon light. Not many birds around when Jack and I hiked up, but we met a few friendly people and dogs. And I spotted a flicker over near the blackberry patch. And ate some of the plumpest, ripest, sweetest blackberries I’ve ever tasted.

At one point I noticed a trailside butterfly and snuck over for a photo. I don’t know butterflies well, but I’ve observed a few. And this one looked sort of monarch-like—but somehow different. I wondered if might’ve been a viceroy. Only later did I look it up and confirm my hunch. A satisfying, if insignificant, victory.

And I rather like knowing the things I know—things I’ve learned simply by doing what I do over and over and paying attention. I suppose it’s a kind of wisdom borne of experience. You do something long enough, get sufficiently familiar with what you’re up to, and you’re liable to get a little prize at the end.

Yes, there’s something to be said for sweet routine. If only because I know what I’ll be having for breakfast tomorrow.