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Since the start of the pandemic, I have rarely had a chance to step away. Away from work. Away from the missing of all the things I no longer do. I need to step away more often.

This time, it’s just an overnight to a small town on the west side of Puerto Rico. The day of arrival was fraught with stress and worry but by the time I settled in for dinner at a lovely café, my shoulders had relaxed, and my mind started to slow down.

I used to be a night owl – all my life as a child, through grad school, and into my years of social dancing. On this first night, as the last light of the day receded into darkness and the chirp of my very own coqui (a local frog with a unique sound) serenaded me, I slipped between the covers at a very early hour. And I slept.

Waking in the morning to see the first shards of daylight piercing through the last of the night sky, I am filled with peace. It is beautiful here. The window in the shower reveals a low-lying fog, a rising sun, and tips of tropical trees sitting in stillness. As the warm water flows freely from the rain shower fixture, a rooster crows confirming that, indeed, the day has arrived.

I slip quietly away from the Airbnb as my fellow travelers haven’t yet stirred. Navigating down the curvy mountain road, I find my way to a lovely café, arriving just before the rush, if you can call it that. With only two outdoor patio seats available, I’m happy to have made it here early.

As I sit sipping my café con leche, the echoes of a morning mass sung slowly en espanol are punctuated by the tap, tap, tapping of an elderly groundskeeper caring for the church that sits in the middle of a quaint plaza. The priest’s deep voice echoes, indeed, like the voice of God. Booming out from between the slatted hurricane glass windows.

Around the church, the sounds of a town coming to life pick up. A truck trundling by, a leaf blower, a distant horn blend together as the pink of sunrise begins to slide away into the blue of the day. The patter of a Spanish conversation makes me long for the day when I can speak it fluently and cements my determination to learn this new language.

What does all this mean to me? It means I need to find a way to take more time. More time to sit. More time to contemplate what I want more or less of in my life. More time to awaken to roosters crowing and to sit on patios sipping coffee and writing. I need more time in my day to day living to slow down. Where will I find it? That is the challenge for another day. For now, I embrace the slowness of this moment and breathe.

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