We all have them, don’t we. Those rituals which ease us into each new day, the daily habits which confirm the structure of our life without which, facing the world, we are a bit more vulnerable. There were times in a colder climate when a part of mine was to huddle down under the bed covers for an extra ten minutes before getting up. Living on the coast of a sub-tropical island is a different kettle of fish. My feet find the cool, tiled floor eagerly, hungry for the new day.
My dog knows my morning ritual well. Shuffle to bathroom. Brush teeth and splash cold water on my face. Do the exercises I have to do to keep my cervical arthrosis at bay. Throw on old clothes. When I get to the old shoes, she knows it’s ok to disturb me, and we stagger out the door so she can to that which she has also to do.
The sun rises at the end of our street. We’re lucky in that. It’s still dark. Dawn is seeping along the horizon. The sun will follow soon. Part of my morning ritual is to take a snap. Often it’s the sunrise. It’s always different: golden and serene, purple and threatening, rosy and hopeful, fiery red or shimmery blue.
Other dog owners hover around waiting for their pets to poop, we greet the nice ones and pull faces behind the backs of the grumpy ones. It’s hard to figure why some folk have pets, when they clearly don’t like the morning ritual. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches here any more, and I don’t disagree with the new by-law because far too many people don’t clear up after their dogs, the walkways are a disgrace, despite a hardworking cleaning crew around here. We get a cheery “Buenos días” from the lady who sweeps our section. I miss being able to let Trix off to run a while, though. Not that she’s up for much running now that she’s an old lady.
Once she’s done the necessary we walk on, observing the rituals of other early risers, as the light changes.There is a small headland just before Montaña Pelada at one end of town, and a hotel and spa blots the view, their first floor lights are on, and the reflections shimmer across the wet beach. The tide is retreating. I imagine the workers in the hotel about their morning rituals, setting tables for breakfast, polishing the floors, cleaning the pool. I’m lucky my day begins in this more gentle way.
My favorite thing about El Médano is its energy. Its setting is quite dramatic with volcanic cones at either end of a series of bays, dunes, rocky beaches and a long stretch of sandy beach, boats pulled up on the tiny Playa Chica, but the town itself is not so pretty. Too much unrestricted development in fact, has left it ugly, and yet, the ugliness is the last thing you notice. People in El Médano do stuff.
Despite the quiet, there is a subtle ripple of energy. We pass several runners, from young girls in lycra to older guys who trudge a bit, but, hey, they’re doing it!
Atop the abandoned bunker on the shore, the person I think of a “Zen man” sits. In truth I don’t know if it’s a man or a woman. The figure sits cross-legged and statue-like, facing the direction from which the sun will soon peek. He or she wears a hoodie with the hood up, so gender is moot. In all my morning walks by this beach I’ve never seen him move. As the sun rises he is silhouetted against the brightness. We stand, as always, in awe, until the brightness fades the fabulous colors, and there is only blue and incandescence.
At this point it is our habit to turn. As we do so “homeless man” emerges from the scrabble of plant life in the dunes. I guess he sleeps around here somewhere. For all I know he may be a famous scientist studying insect life in the scrub or something, but with his dreadlocks and deeply tanned face, I’ll go with the homeless assessment. He has long conversations with himself or with an imaginary friend. A few years back when I first saw him, I thought he was talking on a cellphone, but no. He sets off along the road into town, lanky, almost jaunty. I might envy the air of contentment he emits, or is it merely that nothing in life can shock him any longer?
On the street corner an elderly couple greet each other, and turn to stroll with their dogs towards us. She always wears a hat which looks like an upturned flowerpot, perched upright, probably so as not to crush the perm beneath it. They always nod tentatively, not quite friendly, but not unfriendly either. I used to bump into them around the point where we made our turn, further along the path, and I thought they were a married couple, but recently I’ve observed this morning greeting as they meet, and now I think of them as a winter romance chanced upon through their morning dog walking.
We turn the corner, as “brave morning bather” draws up and parks his car. His morning ritual is a swim, whatever the state of the ocean. Dressed in a towelling robe and flip-flops, which he will leave on the rocks, his greeting is always cheery, but I can never, quite, catch his accent. My bet is he’s German, though. He picks his way across the rocks, because at this point the beach is sharp. Perhaps from respect or from past experience he ignores “yoga man” who is stretching in the sun’s first warmth.
I groan inwardly, but outwardly smile as I spot “the mad woman” ahead. In flapping house coat and slippers she talks constantly to her two, mangy dogs – unless she can pinhole another passing dog walker, and looks like it might be our turn today. She’s harmless, and not entirely stupid, but is impossible to get away from once she’s in full flow. Our luck is in. She scoops up one dog and trots across the road, waving with her free hand. I wave back.
As we turn to cross the road I notice a bright tent amongst the juniper by the picnic area. In summertime there is a great tradition of sleeping on the beaches of Tenerife, not so much a morning ritual as a summer one, even though it’s not quite here yet.
Home. Food for Trixy. Coffee for me. Exercise of some sort. After the ritual the awakening. I consider going out again with the camera.
I know that along the main beach, which is in the other direction from that in which we walked, stout old ladies in flowery swimsuits will be plodding into the waves, or floating and chatting for all the world as if they were in the coffee shop. Along its much smoother length folk will be running, power walking or just strolling. Wee plovers and maybe a heron will be darting amongst the rocky parts in search of breakfast, and at the end of the harbor wall the good old boys, and some young ones too in these days of unemployment, will be casting their fishing lines into the sea. The tractor which furrows and tidies up the sand will have finished and will be moving to the other end of town, and the boy who puts out the sunbeds will soon be putting them into orderly rows. The bars near the oceanfront will be putting out their tables and chairs and perking the first coffee of the day.
It’s tempting. I like to photograph these moments, how folk approach the day, prepare themselves, greet it. We all have our ways of grooming mind and body for the chaos of the day ahead.