It’s the kind of day that was the norm at this time of year when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, but that we rarely experience here in arid Kamloops. The sky is gray, clouds are low, and raindrops dance in puddles on the sidewalk. The rain washes away memories of the endless smoky skies, forest fires, and middle-of-the-night evacuations of the past summer.
White lights wrapped around the trunks of leafless trees lining the main street give off a festive mood. It’s early enough in the season that there’s still a soft carpet of gold coloured leaves underneath the bare branches. I’m walking toward a coffee shop to meet a friend and I’m carrying a burden. Most of us are, and on some days they feel heavier than others.
A man walking quickly catches up to me on the sidewalk.
“Hello. How are you?” he asks with a friendly lilt.
I look sideways to see if I recognize him. No, he’s just a random stranger wearing a smile on his face.
“I’m good. How are you? It’s quite the rain we’re having, isn’t it?”
And in the space of a few feet we have conversation about how we’re both enjoying the weather—and, oh, is that barbershop gone now?—and in less than a minute, he strides ahead of me across the street while I hold back waiting for the walk signal.
It was a brief interaction, but I feel the weight on my shoulder’s lift. My mind, clearer now, is grateful for the brief connection. I’m reminded of all that is good and pure and true in the world that has not changed, despite what the news media leads us to believe. We don’t see the full picture. When I put the bulk of my attention on that which I see with my limited human eyes and neglect the unseen things, my burden becomes nearly unbearable. Sometimes it takes a simple moment or an encounter such as this one to shift my focus.
I look around. There’s a man with tattoos on his head waiting for the streetlight to change. A woman wearing a green rain jacket holds the small hand of a small child wearing a yellow slicker and rubber boots as they cross the street. A tall, well-dressed man carrying an umbrella strides—almost glides—down the sidewalk; he’s got an important destination on his mind. I wonder what their stories are.
I reach the coffee shop, pull open the door, and step inside. It’s busy. Guitar strings from background music pluck out a tune I don’t recognize. That’s okay. It’s the hissing from the espresso machine that’s the music I’m listening for this morning.
I take my frothy mug of caramel macchiato to a table near a window, shrug out of my jacket, and lay it on top of my purse on the chair next to me. I notice that my blue mug has a chip out of it as I lift it and take a first sip of frothy coffee but, of course, that doesn’t detract from the deliciousness. I look around to ground myself.
There are two carnations in a glass vase on the table—one white, the other yellow. An umbrella plant in the front window and a spiky sansevieria (aka: mother-in-law’s tongue) bring a touch of the outdoors in. There’s a man sitting in a wing chair reading the first pages of a library book; a red ribbon page marker hangs from the spine. A cackling laugh from a man wearing a reflective vest at a table in front of me catches my attention. At the table nest to him, a young man taps on the keyboard of a laptop while a young woman sits across from him picking pieces off of a muffin and dropping them in her mouth.
No longer do I take lightly the blessing of sitting in a coffee shop. Eighteen months ago there was a sign in the window of this place that punched me in the gut when I saw it. See you soon. One shop of many on a main street that was, for all intents and purposes, shut down. There was something about the sign in this window that hurt my heart almost as much as seeing yellow tape around playgrounds.
But now, on this gray, wet morning, the comfort of sitting here listening to random ambient noise and sipping coffee is sweeter than ever. In the absence of my laptop, I pull out my phone and tap out some words while I wait for my friend to arrive so I can hold on to these moments and pull them out if I need them again in the future. Simple happy. The best kind of happy.
I lived in Kamloops for a short while in the 70’s. This message was simply lovely. Thanks
Thank you, Deborah. Kamloops has changed a LOT since the 70s which was when I first moved here.
I love this!!
Your encounter with strangers reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, a book I’m reading now.
Well done, Linda!