I Thought I Came for the Caffeine

On Writing

hot tea on a cold day JASON ANFINSEN

“The thing that you had to force yourself  to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to  be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing is its own reward.” ~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

When you sit down to write, you never know where the journey of scribbling will take you. When I sat down to write this piece, I started with the quote that motivated the share. I then moved on to the imagery. I used to spend many many minutes culling my personal photo archives until I discovered a suitable image from my galleries that would fit the subject matter. Now, with fancy plug-ins and a succinct keyword, I can insert imagery to match my thoughts in a matter of mere moments.

My most recent search yielded the image above. It had tea. It had a typewriter. But wait, what’s that sticker on the side of the typewriter? Could it be? Why yes, yes it is. Bauhaus Coffee in my own neck of the woods! And, that blackened, rain-slicked street with few pedestrians on its sidewalks? Yep, definitely Seattle. So my mind wandered. Wandered to memories from Bauhaus and . . .

. . . to $1 Ding Dongs accompanied by $5 coffees.

. . . to tracking down a boy I had crush on while he studied and I nonchalantly “dropped by” because I was in the area.

. . . running into the same boy, at the same coffee shop, because I actually was “in the area” and had forgotten he frequented the joint, but could not forget he had been mad at me for weeks.

. . . to drippy, juicy peaches on a June afternoon. Sitting outside on the shop’s sidewalk with my best friend.

. . . to a mental flash of two of my favorite images from the thousands I have taken with my digital camera  over the years.

On the same day as the juicy June peaches, I captured two images outside Bauhaus. One, a half-eaten peach on a crumpled paper grocery bag. The other, a shot of four friends.

I hadn’t noticed the balled up napkin in the peach shot until I had the image printed, weeks later. The napkin was not small by any means and it certainly was not attractive. For a while, I cursed it for ruining my “perfect” shot. Until I realized, it made the shot.

The shot would have been too perfect, too posed, without the mar of the balled up dirty napkin. The napkin verified that the shot was indeed not staged. To me, the photo was a metaphor for life. The balled up nasty bits saddled up next to the ripe, pretty parts. It makes for a better narrative and in this case, a more interesting picture.

That summer day, I was a girl sitting on a sidewalk with her best friend while the sun cast a delicious golden glow over the Seattle cityscape. As I looked out across the roadway and to the parking lot on the corner across the street, my eyes rested on four friends, arced around a street corner, their butts hugging the sidewalk. Lost in conversation, the cars speeding past them were a non-issue on their mental radar as they laughed and sipped paper cups of Bauhaus coffee. I snapped this photo of them:

Here I sit, a decade later, and this image of the four friends, coupled with the visceral memory of sitting with my best friend and the subsequent peach photo — are two of my favorite personal photos to date. Christmas and birthday photos come and go. As do posed images meant for Facebook to brag about how great life is. But, the moments that matter are the ones you don’t plan for and rarely the ones you capture on film. I was lucky that day. I had a juicy peach, a Seattle sunset, my best friend, and a camera. Now, I finally have the words. And on that Bauhaus day, like now, I thought I showed up for the caffeine.

As always, thanks for reading.


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