Tonight I’m sitting in a little coffee shop in southern Indiana, where you’ll find me most every Tuesday night. Here in the low light, surrounded by plentiful conversation, I am silently recharging.
Most weeks you’ll find me reading. I might even take a stab at writing — but you wouldn’t know it, because it would look more like staring dumbly at an electrical outlet or the grooves in the hardwood floor. For an hour. And not actually writing anything.
This little coffee shop has a fireplace — the freestanding kind, so that you can sit around it rather than just in front of it. I will always be sitting there, even in the summer months when it is unlit. There’s just something about a fireplace set upon a high stone hearth. I do wish they would light it a bit earlier in the autumn.
On a night like tonight, when ice glazes the sidewalk and hangs from the eaves, fireside chairs are in high demand. Until a few moments ago I was stuck with a window seat, where I watched and waited for someone to vacate the hearth. You’ll be happy to know that my vigil was rewarded, and I am now comfortably situated. I might exchange niceties (if it’s unavoidable) with the others gathered near the flames. More likely, we will nod at one another, prop our feet up side by side on the stones, and enjoy the quiet camaraderie of shared warmth.
My husband stayed overnight in this coffee shop once, installing countertops between closing time and the morning rush. While waiting for my coffee, I often muse that thousands of people have passed money and drinks and conversation across my husband’s handiwork without thinking of or knowing the one who made it. Most of them don’t see it at all. I value it — this important but overlooked fixture — simply because of who made it. His craftsmanship has provided a foundation, a space for others to do their work, an avenue for exchange. Things to aspire to in my own work, I think.
Next to that countertop is a series of shelves where percolators, French presses, and teapots sit and wait to be chosen. But I’m always drawn to the shelf of stoneware mugs instead. Every week I look at them while my mocha is made, picking up a few of my favorites and feeling how they fit in my hand.
It was my first or second visit here when I noticed the resemblance of these mugs to a favorite mug in my own kitchen. There was similarity in the shape, the glaze, the raised logo. It’s silly, I suppose, but when I pulled the business card out of one of these mugs for the first time and saw that it was thrown and glazed by the same people who made my Rabbit Room mug, a flood of affection washed over me. Here was a connection — another cord tying me not just to a community, but to individual souls who are dear to me within it.
Since then, every Tuesday night in the coffee shop, those mugs have reminded me of you: your copious mug collection, the cozy that hugs your own Rabbit Room mug — the mug that comes from the same maker and the same family as mine, the mug that warms your hands each morning as you pray to our common Father in my behalf.
A couple of the baristas here were kind enough to learn my name and to expect me on Tuesday nights. It strikes me as a high privilege to be recognized, smiled at, and called by my name. It’s comforting and embarrassing at the same time. I suppose that’s how I almost always respond to “you belong here” and “you’re on of us” type generosities. I never quite believe myself worthy, but I’m unspeakably grateful for the gesture of kinship.
Those baristas are gone now, but I’ll continue to spend my silent hours in this little coffee shop. The new baristas will have to ask my name, at least for a while. But the countertop will be glad to see me and know that it is seen, I think. I’ll continue to wait at the end of it, gazing at the rows of mugs, choosing a favorite. I’ll run my thumb over its oval-shaped logo and think of its kin in a kitchen cupboard many miles away — thrown by the same maker, wrapped in a friend’s fingers, filling up with whispered prayers.