I saw her just this morning. I hadn't noticed her on my way in. There she sat, the girl in the coffee shop, sublimely unaware of the morning scene playing itself out around her--the man in the suit laughing as he tips the pigtailed barista, the espresso steamer hissing its wet song, the fresh baked chocolate croissants wafting their fragrance above us all. It was 9 o'clock AM in Canton, Ohio, and I was on my way out the door, German Chocolate Mocha in hand, making my way across the large parking lot to my own shop. Right before I crossed the threshhold to the coffee shop's patio, I noticed her sitting at a table by the window. She had dark hair and olive skin and appeared to be about twenty-five. She was wearing iPod earbuds and had a slick little iMac open on the table in front of her. Papers in a multitude of colors occupied the rest of the tabletop. I noticed all these details, but what I really took in was the expression on her face: she stared into her laptop with a look approximating enchantment. She was transfixed, spellbound, inspired. What in the world was she focusing on? Hard to say, but it was obvious she was enjoying her work. No, not just enjoying. Relishing. Whatever was so delighting her on that laptop screen and in her pile of papers, I came away inspired, as well. The thing is, the girl in the coffee shop this morning reminded me of me.
Not long ago, in a place and a life I once occupied, I, too, was the girl in the coffee shop. I dislike the sound of the phrase "me time," but that's truly what any time I spent in a coffee shop meant to me. It was almost, dare I say it, like church to me. And I even did it on Sunday mornings. Every Sunday at eight AM, pretty much year-round, I was out of bed and driving to my favorite Columbus coffee shop to meet up with my incorrigible (I say that with the utmost affection) teaching partner, Kim Ray. We team-taught a group of Honors sophomores--I did the Literature, he did the American History. Ours was a remarkably fun partnership and part of that fun was our weekend morning meetings at Cup O'Joe, our favorite haunt. We'd grade papers and tests, plan our calendar for the next unit, talk about the teenagers, and give each other feedback on more personal issues, such as our relationships, our writing, and our dreams and goals.
Kim would inevitably leave before noon, and this is when I'd settle in comfortably for a couple more hours. I'd almost always have my laptop with me, at least one fat notebook (college ruled only--it's one of my "things"), and a great gel pen--black or blue. Once he'd left, I'd purchase a second coffee and maybe a bagel with cream cheese or a slice of cheesecake. Then I'd wait for inspiration. And you know what? It always came. One of my fiction writing professors from college, Stephanie Grant, told our class something like, If you invite her, the muse will come. I'm sure I've botched it--the way Stephanie said it was much more eloquent and spot-on. But you get the idea. The point is, I made myself available to be inspired, and it never failed: inspiration was there at the ready. Some days, I'd play around with a story, or jot notes on a poem-in-the-making, or sometimes I'd just journal. If I was still in teacher mode, I'd write out ideas for a future project, something the teenagers would engage with on a personal level while still hitting the Benchmarks. Those Sunday mornings-into-lazy-afternoons were the space in the week where I was creatively fed and watered.
These days, as a boutique owner still cutting her teeth, it is very difficult to find space to be inspired. And in my business, if inspiration is in short order, you're in trouble. Fortunately, I work with my mom, and if I'm not particularly inspired one day, she is, and vice-versa. I absolutely love this new life I've shaped for myself, but I do miss the weekend time to chill out, sip a sugary caffeinated beverage, and stare into my laptop.
But there are books. Oh, are there books! Books I can (and do) read when I'm brushing my teeth and blowdrying my hair. Yes, this is a little obsessive. At least I don't read at stoplights anymore, like I did during Senior English when I was engrossed in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Horrible, I know. Right now, I am reading a novel by the poet Marisa de Los Santos. It's called Love Walked In, and it's one of those books you want to race through because it's so good, but then you don't want it to be over because it's so good.
Here's a passage that speaks to me because it connects to how I feel about choosing things to offer you at my shop. All you need to know is that Clare is a ten-year old girl whose father is dating Cornelia, the book's main character, and Cornelia has been described by Clare as having "great plates and pajamas" [sigh]:
After the bath, Clare put on the pajamas Cornelia had left for her--pajamas so pretty they seemed to be something else. Everything in Clare's apartment is like this, Clare had thought as she looked in the mirror at herself. Peculiar and pretty and so obviously chosen. Cornelia had stood in a store, letting the white, gliding fabric cool her hands. "I won't take those, but I'll take these," she'd said. "Elegant," Clare said to her reflection. "I am elegant." She noticed the mirror's carved edges, the flower-shaped buttons on the pajamas, the way the pajamas themselves caught the light.
I hope that Clare's perspective on Cornelia and the special things that create her world is a perspective that comes through to you when you're shopping at The Blissful Home. Clare's way is the way I want to see my world, everyday, where every thing I invite into my home and into my shop is imbued with a dear, particular uniqueness. I want every thing in here to "catch the light." Especially you! When you shop here, I want you to feel as inspired as I do when I'm running through the halls of the tradeshows or when my imagination is wandering through a Paris Flea Market.
So for all of us out there who need fed and watered, let's try and take some time today, just for a while, to be the girl in the coffee shop.