The thing about baristas, as my dad would have said, is they are smart cookies. Or biscotti. Or scones.
What I mean is, baristas are the type of people you’d like to invite to sit down at your table to sip a small Chai Latte with skim and chat away the morning.
I was sitting and sipping at Café Lemont, alone at Evan’s table (he had already left for the morning so I snagged it), when I caught a snippet of Aine’s conversation with another customer between belches and blasts of the Nuovo Simonelli espresso machine. “Love it…her mother had Alzheimer’s…the stories she tells…my favorite book…”
I tried to catch a name or title but the pre-holiday rush of caffeine seekers, punctuated by jets of steamed milk and the shuffle of the cash drawer, made that impossible.
I had been feeling really down. My mother. The situation. The way the holidays turn dementia into delirium and back again, an emotional kaleidoscope of nonsense and frustration and more nonsense. I needed something, so I threw out a life buoy.
Returning my mug to the clear-your-table wash bin, I stuck my head behind the counter and whispered:
“Aine, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but what book were you talking about?”
“The Near, I mean, The Faraway Nearby.”
Can you repeat that?
“The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit.”
I’ll never remember that, I mumbled to myself. I wrote it down and went to Barnes & Noble. The store didn’t have it in stock. I went to Schlow Centre Region Library. Not in their inventory, but available through an Interlibrary Loan. A few weeks later I got an email saying the book arrived in State College for pickup, on loan from Lebanon Valley College.
I spent the next few nights dog-earing pages, lightly marking paragraphs or sentences with pencil stars, underlines, or brackets—to be erased before returning. I was like a hungry hummingbird, sliding out that long tongue and curling it around the sweet, life-giving nectar. A book can be a workout. That’s how I found The Faraway Nearby.
For example, Solnit might start with a simple declaration. Then she draws parallels and intersections, and circumnavigates the subject, looking at it from a half-dozen viewpoints. It is exhausting. One minute she’s writing about Frankenstein and the apricots on the tree in her mother’s backyard, next she’s musing on The Snow Queen or the birth of an island off the coast of Iceland in the 1960s (yes, Iceland keeps popping into my life), and miraculously she bundles them into a coherent theme or revelation.
I read it simultaneously with Gypsying After 40 (a how-to on adventuring). I’ve got to believe the combination was serendipity: a search for getting through each day and a quest for what to do after—simple threads spinning, unraveling, and maybe weaving together again. Laurie Lynch
Another Thing Learned From My Barista: “A-i-n-e is as Irish as you can get” and is pronounced “Awn-yah”.
Another Recommendation: A friend and I took my mom to the new musical La La Land. What a treat! It is edgy, yet nostalgic, with fabulous dancing and singing in the City of Stars.
Written on Slate: “Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds.” Rebecca Solnit
Apropos Slate Suggestion: My friend Terese gave me two boxes of slates from her old roof—and sent along a new quote. “I drink wine because my doctor says I shouldn’t keep things bottled up.”