"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Monday, April 2, 2012

Purple clouds

They're always the same way, I thought as I opened the coffee shop door—passive and serious, like the home you just left but better somehow, because the music whispered there was nothing to do, just a place to be. The idea made me discreet, productive: it was like thinking of being a writer. I was not a writer when I stepped out of my rusted Toyota, but passing through the door—now I was.

They are the same way, all coffee shops I’ve been in, from the nameless one with the broken chair in central Ohio to here at Nesting Grounds in my hometown of Wyoming, Minnesota. At three in the afternoon, the March sun was fool’s gold promising warmth and masking chill, but inside, the fertile smells thawed the air and allowed it to be spring.

Today was too long. Up early for accounting homework, to the barn to ride, to class, to a meeting, to class again. Now when I could’ve gone home, I rejected the living room—tan leather couch and awkward fake fireplace—and came here to the plaid armchair by the photograph of a tree with the beige tag that said “$20.” Be a writer, start with this essay, or start with a coffee shop. The sun slanted in, amber light on mocha plates, and you knew when you sat down with your purchase, you could let yourself into your thoughts.

I waited in line to buy my coffee, so many choices, a way to feel productive. My mother has given me a coupon worthy of an adventure—buy one get one half off—so I run my finger down the small sign labeled “FLAVORS,” tasting hazelnut, almond, Irish crème (what’s that?). If I’m inspired now, I will be later: marshmallow white chocolate mocha it is. I judge people by their coffee sometimes. Why did he choose just vanilla? Does she care sugar-free flavorings cause cancer? I suppose others are judging me.

The deer are eating the daylilies this year. At the breakfast table yesterday, Dad ate his oatmeal, Mother said, “I don’t know what to do,” and the doe relished her meal. Mother recited the arsenal she’d employed: the rotten egg spray smelled bad and worked worse, but the wire-mesh fencing was ugly along our residential road, and the deer weren’t eating the neighbors’ flowers. I drank my juice.

The daylily sprouts are now a crushed running board along the wooded driveway, but that is all right, I like the crocuses better. There is only one patch of them this March, set back from the mailbox, touching the crowded trees. I like them for their bravery as well as for their color; purple was always my favorite, because in it you could see the clouds.

I take the proffered mocha, resting it on its blue-painted holder under the armchair’s window with the cold apple muffin nearby to keep it company. With laptop on my knees, I am here but also present, and I am a writer.

Coffee shops listen to something you didn’t know you were saying. Sitting in my chair, patterned purse bound around my feet, I thought I heard voices in the espresso machine’s grind. The blonde waitress asked if I needed anything else, and the mahogany wood tables held their ground.