Late this afternoon my daughter and I ventured out into the blustery cool on a quest to find the perfect hot cup of coffee to lift me out of near hibernation. Allow me to indulge myself in a few side stories before I continue. 1. I am friends with an elderly Italian woman who makes a delicious cup of coffee for me whenever I come to visit her. She tells vivacious stories from times past that I have heard often but do not tire of. We also chat about the news and our families. She enjoys children immensely, and despite her advanced years still manages to watch her great-granddaughter several days a week. I called her today in the secret hopes she might invite me over for a cup of joe, but alas it was not my fate. 2. I am more of a tea drinker (I have been drinking my share of fresh lemongrass recently), though I do have a coffeemaker that my parents passed on to me. We keep that hunk of machinery in the large lower cabinets. To make a cup myself I have to break into a full-on gargoyle squat, lift the coffeemaker and somehow squeeze it between the toaster and juicer on our little countertops, whereupon I usually brew a muddy cup of coffee that goes cool too quickly because A. I have accidentally used two (or more) filters again and B. I have been heavy handed while adding cold almond milk (which means if I want a really good cup of coffee I have to break out a saucepan as we don’t keep a microwave on our little countertops). Hence our quest.
We bundled up in warm outerwear & headed toward the one place I knew could serve a reliably satisfying cup of coffee: in approximately ten minutes time we had arrived, ironically, at the teashop. I ordered one organic French press, black. The coffee tasted earthy and floral, and at the same time very clean and bright.
Satisfied, I strolled along the plaza with my daughter until we reached a magical surprise — the Christmas tree was already up where there is usually a fountain. I parked the stroller by a bench and took my daughter out to play. The area was quiet with only one or two families nearby. A dark haired girl waved a bright orange ribbon in the air, catching my daughter’s eye. I could see the little girl’s mother and her sibling, a baby sister, sitting on the bench not too far away. They appeared so calm, effortlessly beautiful. The little girl with the ribbon smiled wide and began to speak to us. She was quite young and I could not always understand what she was trying to say, but nevertheless I tried to reassure her with my own smiles and nods. She became very comfortable with us and it was then that her mother issued what seemed to be a reproach for perhaps invading our personal space, though I recognized right away that it was not in English, but in Russian. Her voice sounded stern yet gentle, just as she appeared. The girls played together for a minute or two longer, the mother and I exchanged some words on our daughters & curly hair, and then they left, as quietly as they had come.
There was something so different about this experience. Perhaps it was the gray sky and cold winds, but I felt as though I were somewhere else, and that I had met some very special people, special in a way other than their own foreignness and their kind, gentle nature. I know that as I watched them stroll on, in that moment they seemed content to be together, a quiet and silent contentedness that I do not often see. Though we may often feel that we must speak to fill in silence, or constantly move else we lose momentum, maybe just the opposite gives us the greatest opportunity to connect — both within ourselves and with one another.
Believe it or not, when I returned home I had to shake the desire to hibernate once more. I spoke with my mother and prepped butternut squash as onions quietly sizzled in the pan. I yearned for some warm & hearty food, and so cooked up an improvised butternut squash & chickpea chili with a 7-pot pepper from the farmer’s market & some other yummy herbs and spices. Though that would have been enough, I was in the mood to cook & so quickly turned out a favorite Hallelujah Acres recipe for kale & potatoes (delicious, cooked with a little bit of pan-fried onions & curry powder). Now we are full and happy and calm. Sweet dreams!