I was on my second cup of coffee at the Starbucks in downtown Corvallis Oregon when I noticed a cute woman walking a pair of dogs. It was Friday morning the day after Thanksgiving.
That year Thanksgiving was a lonely holiday. I’d spent the day in my cold punky little farmhouse with Honey and Smudge, my faithful feline friends. I was adrift at the time, hoping to find someone special but after more than two decades out of circulation, I was hopelessly uncomfortable about dating.
I recognized her, the cute woman with the dogs, from the time I’d worked on a contract at the Environmental Protection Agency’s research laboratory. But it had been years and years since we’d spoken. I didn’t remember her name.
Lonely and looking, I resolved to say something to her when I realized that she was about to come into the coffee shop after tethering her dogs. Out of the corner of my eye I watched for an opportunity, doing my best to avoid a creepy stare. And damned if she didn’t get her coffee to-go then scurry out the door to rejoin the dogs.
I almost let her get away that day twenty-two years ago. But I followed her out to say hello. She’s shared coffee with me nearly every morning since we married 11 months after that Friday morning.
I’m a morning person. Susan isn’t, which may be one reason our morning coffee ritual works.
I get to enjoy the quietness of morning. These days in the company of an old cat friend. In the past I shared the time with other special friends, cats and dogs who no longer grace this world but live on in my deepest memories.
Susan has the joy of uninterrupted slumber. If I were the sort, I’d envy her the peaceful repose, but I’m long resolved to be the light and fitful sleeper, an easy mark for the cats’ predilection for predawn kibble. Besides, I love to watch her sleeping, so relaxed. Makes my heart go all soft and lovey.
I can generally tell just about when Susan will begin to stir. I’m not sure what the cues are and often enough I miss early or late. But usually I know when it’s time to make the second pot. Another reason our morning ritual works, I get the first couple of mugs all to myself. Decadently selfish I know, but I’m the one down in the kitchen with cold feet, so what the hell.
It’s nice to heat the water, measure the coffee, arrange the mugs. Over the years the preparation ritual has changed, some years I perked the coffee, sometimes it was a press pot. Here in Spain I’m partial to the cafetera italiano, that iconic Italian stovetop espresso maker. But always, always it’s peaceful, the flow of actions, aromas and gentle sounds that go into producing the hot bitter brew that I’m about to share with the woman I love.
Then, coffee ready, pot in hand — or more recently a vacuum flask (Why did it take me two decades to come up with that idea?) — I climb the stairs, distribute the mugs and slip back under the covers to a drowsy, “Hi, honey.” My feet are just cold enough to relish the warmth of Susan’s body, but not so cold that I’m tempted to actually press the matter. “Good morning sweetheart', I reply, ‘how ‘bout a cuppa?” And the most important conversation of the day begins.
Our morning coffee ritual has tested and built the bonds of our respect for one another. It’s the time we talk about the most important issues. We’ve changed careers, struggled with the decision to abandon a failing business, explored our life values, mourned lost loved ones, dreamed about new and different futures. Sometimes we just watched the sunrise in shared silence.
Morning coffee is a constant. I believe we may only have missed a couple dozen or so days in the past 21 years — those days when we were in different places. Setting aside this special time has been one of the best accidental improvements of my life.
I’d like to write more, but I hear the church bell ringing and the sun will soon be up. It’s time to make the coffee.
Jamie wants “life on gentle cycle” to be a story of enough rather than a search for more. His focus is on simplicity, quiet presence, low impact travel, and mostly on living gently. He also manages the technical aspects of GentleCycle.net
Julie and Adam here from Eugene Oregon. We spent a lovely holiday at Las Chimineas a few years back. Wonderful memories except the bus ride to get there
Do you still live in Corvallis? Small world. Adam and I have our morning coffee ritual as well. Thank you again for sharing this. Where are you now?
We are elders waiting to resume foreign travel when we are vaccinated. What active it has been!!
Hello Julie and Adam,
Thank you for reading our blog. You’re right, it is a small world. We seem to meet folks with Oregon ties everywhere we go but we never expected an Oregonian link via tiny Mairena!
Susan and I left Corvallis for Salem about 20 years ago. When we retired in 2017 we left Salem for Valencia, Spain. These days we a wanderers. Our stay here in Mairena is the first stage of a slow journey to…, well, we aren’t sure where. Our plan is to spend the next weeks here at Las Chimeneas and then slowly make our way out of Spain. We haven’t made a firm decision on our next destination. Further north I expect.
Where do you imagine your next sojourn will take you?
Have often wondered how the two of you met…now, I know. I have always loved the early morning hours…getting up before the kids, the husband, even the sun. For me, that first cup of coffee is the best! Later, I enjoy a second cup in the kitchen with Ray…where we spend time looking out the window and watching the birds.
Always enjoy reading about your life and adventures with Susan!
Hi Annie, There is something special about those wee morning hours isn’t there? Glad you liked the post.
What a lovely Starbucks romance! Have they heard of your story?
Glad to have met you and Susan and love the bike now that it’s been adjusted to my shorter body.
It’s good to know the the bike is working for you. Say hi to Richard from both of us.