Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The little things

We arrived home last Monday night, with help from our friend Jeff, without doing any shopping. So, though the house has not been empty while we were away, it was devoid of one of our chief staples - COFFEE! Our housemate drinks coffee, but she is strictly a decaf girl, and that doesn't cut it for Roger and me. I rummaged around in the cabinets on Tuesday morning and found a couple of those single-serve packages that you get in hotel rooms, and that held us until we headed down to the coffee shop to meet our riding buddies at 11:00. Then we enjoyed a nice latte - one of our favorite treats.

If we'd been thinking, we would have purchased some coffee right then and there, but we weren't. (As I recall, we left the coffee shop with some friends in search of a slice of pizza and some beer. Consequently, we were not thinking about coffee!) Consequently, I woke up Wednesday morning thinking once again, "we don't have any coffee."  Argh. It was about 5:45 when I first awoke. I think we've been rising early partly due to the many time zones we've crossed lately, and partly because of the discipline we developed about getting out on the road earlier rather than later. (I suspect our accident may also have something to do with it; being hit and having to recover from that trauma is actually pretty taxing, and we've been heading to bed early.) Anyway, I lay there for a while, and then when I heard Roger stirring, I whispered that I was going to go get some coffee and eggs and bacon, and that he should go back to sleep.
Early morning sky

Thus it was that I found myself in the parking lot at our local grocery store around 6:30 or so. I didn't even know if the store opened that early. I had in mind it usually opened at 7:00, so I was surprised to see the doors open and the place bustling. Our coffee shop gives you a cup of coffee when you buy a pound, so I stopped in there first so I could do my shopping with my free java. And then I just walked through the parking lot to the store. I was so taken with the beauty of the palm trees against the morning sky. I had to stop and take a picture of them.

I picked up my bacon, eggs and bread for breakfast, then got some other staples like yogurt, milk and fruit. I got inspired to shop for dinner also, and selected some nice fish that was on sale. I casually picked up sweet potatoes, apples, broccoli and pears that looked great - firm, fresh, unblemished. I marveled at the amazing options before me. The organic produce section had been expanded since we left. Every single box, can or bottle in the store had been carefully pulled to the edge of the shelf so it just looked so pristine! Near the check-out stations, there were three guys in suits. I jokingly mentioned to another worker that "the men in black" were there in the store - was something special going on? Turns out I had arrived on the very edge of the unveiling of a store remodel, so the suits were there to complete the final inspections before the official opening.

The mundane nature of my errands hit me hard as I headed to the car. I was just shopping for a few groceries, picking up a pound of coffee, saying "hello" to the people who worked in my favorite store. To a few of them, I noted that I had been away for six months, so I was pleased to see them again. It was nothing special. But it brought tears to my eyes, nevertheless.  In that early morning shopping trip, I realized I was home.

These small rituals, favorite haunts, daily habits - they are the stuff of life. We undertook a "big thing" when we decided that we were going to ride our bike around the country.  I wouldn't try to dispute that. But it was, after all, merely a collection of "little things" that we did each day.

There can be great tedium in the little things. There's nothing spectacular about making dinner every day, or buying groceries, or doing your laundry. And yet, there is also comfort in the familiar. At least for me, that is so. I enjoy having some idea of how my day will go. I respond favorably to the sense that I can control aspects of my life, can choose what I will do and how I will do it, even while acknowledging that I am not going to do anything particularly engaging or unique most of the time.

Even when I have a chance to do something very different, my brain tends to find the structure and the order within. How is this experience like or unlike something else I have done? Within the overall boundary of our trip, we developed a few rituals that helped to calm some of the natural chaos associated with packing up your stuff and moving it 60 miles down the road every day. One of these was having a cup of coffee while we were getting up and getting dressed. We almost always were able to find that first cup of coffee, which we sometimes shared and which Roger usually prepared and brought to me in bed.

It's the patterns that are created by the little things, I think, that I find so appealing. The big things are disruptors - they break patterns or splash across them like big splatter paintings - and they are beautiful (and sometimes fearsome) in their own right. But I find the patterns beautiful, also. I like how they weave in and out of each other - the structure, the color and texture that they bring to my life.

And so I headed home, eager to have a cup of coffee with my husband.


  1. In the aftermath of the election, I appreciate your post all the more.
    We're all so stunned and reeling with the bitterness of the campaign, and the shock of seeing so clearly how divided this nation has become, and the uncertainty of the future, that what can we do but be so deeply grateful for the little things that anchor us.
    And that we have in common, and what is so precious.
    So proud of you two! Glad you are home and resting, thank you for the vicarious adventures. Love, Linda

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