I left for vacation two Fridays back and was gone for five days. I went to Sunriver, Oregon with my family, grandparents, and cousins. We went skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor and spent time in a fun, little house we were renting, and went into the village to shop and eat. It was just the break that I needed.
However, Mt. Bachelor is quite the drive from where I live. It is, roughly, six to six and a half hours south. We set out in the car armed with books, Cd's, and bracingly positive attitudes. My grandparents live in far Southern Oregon, so we are used to the long drives through the Northwest.
Anyone who has ever driven for a long time with me knows I do not take to car trips very well. To be short, I'm rather like a piranha who, finding itself uncomfortable on land, decides it will bite the finger off of as many smiling children as it can before it suffocates (you think I'm kidding).
Because of weather warnings we split the trip into two sections and stayed in a hotel in Yakima overnight. I was, if I do say so myself, quite pleasant the first day. But I woke up with a cloud hanging over my head and the idea of driving another four hours to Sunriver did not appeal to me at the time.
So I set out armed with books, Cd's, and bad attitude and continued south. Somewhere along the way, we saw a sign that read: Saint John's Monastery, Greek Bakery, and Espresso. I rolled my eyes and warned my family about the grounds-in-the-cup issue I have with Greek coffee. "I think we should give it a look," remarked my dad.
"Be my guest." That was my response. I was turning down espresso! It must have been a bad day.
After much argument, we pulled over. The convent itself looked like a small coastal Greek temple of sorts. Angry tongue in check, I walked in the front door. The first thing that greeted me was the undeniable scent of phyllo dough.
Let me take a moment to expound on the beauty that is phyllo. It is flaky, it is crumbly, it is buttery and crunchy and soft underneath. If I hadn't decided to write a coffee blog, I very well might have written Flakier Spanakopita for your reading pleasure.
It turns out, that a man had owned a great deal of land in the exact spot of the Saint John's Monastery/Bakery/Coffee Shop. When he died, the man, a Greek Orthodox Catholic, tried to donate the land to the Church as a retreat center. The location was not central enough, however, for the Church, so they relocated an order of nuns to the area. The first women in the Saint John's Monastery were little old nuns from Greece. They came over in their all-black habits with the red crosses on the foreheads and set themselves to opening a traditional Greek bakery, coffee shop, and Catholic trinket store.
The nun who helped us (I never did catch her name) was in her mid-thirties and had been living as a Sister in the convent for thirteen years. Later, we all remarked on the peculiar way she had set about making one latte and one Italian soda. She moved slowly and deliberately. She did not rush the steaming of the milk, nor did she try to complete both drinks at once. I was almost nervous, watching her, wondering why she wouldn't move faster. I wanted to tell her to stop her polite conversationa and steam, steam, steam! I'm used to unnecessary speed, I was literally uncomfortable in the face of this unshakable conviction that there is no problem in not rushing a thing.
My dad said an interesting thing about those nuns. He remarked that they had, probably, lost all concept of time and urgency. They lived lives that were completely theirs (or completely God's, depending on how you look at it) and they did not care whether you were on a schedule or not. These women gave themselves wholly over to a cause. Just because that cause meant making my sister an Italian soda, did not mean that my sister could define, rush, or limit how these women chose to go about their divine work.
You see, we pick paths in life. Often, our path runs so quickly and furiously that we never stop to look at the paths that intersect ours. The slow, steady, devoted, and - frankly - beautiful path of these nuns crossed mine that second day of driving. If I'd had it my way, I would blown right past the peculiar Greek building and missed a look at a life far removed from my own.
Nothing about my life demands I move quickly. That is just how I move. They say you should wake up and smell the coffee. But they're wrong. Waking up has nothing to do with it. Slowing down, looking around, and investigating the lives of the beautiful and unique individuals around you - that is smelling the coffee.
May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
Original Artwork provided by Nalani Saito.
Inspired by the theme of "paths".