Sunday, December 23, 2001

I pulled off the freeway for a break and a cup of coffee. Downtown Castle Rock is small-town quaint, with a sprinkling of antique shops amidst the taverns. I looked in vain for a simple coffee shop, where I could sit and write for a while to bring my neglected journal up to date. I was on my way from Seattle to Eugene, where I was going to visit my family for Christmas. No coffee shops to be found, I stopped in at a family restaurant called Hattie's.

"Are you here to eat help?" the friendly old woman asked. She was talking to the man who'd walked in just ahead of me. He was helping, he said. The tables were slowly filling with people, mostly elderly and a few families.

"I'm just here for a cup of coffee," I told the woman. She'd explained that this was a Christmas dinner for people who were alone for Christmas or just didn't have their own Christmas dinner.

Nice. She brought me a cup of coffee and found me a place to sit. Everyone was so friendly and smiling, I hardly felt self-conscious about being the weirdo with messy hair. As I sat with my pen and notebook, the volunteer servers kept coming by to ask if I wanted something -- water, more coffee, dinner, dessert, more coffee again. I finally gave up trying to concentrate on the past and began writing this instead.

The man at the pano is now strumming his acoustic guitar and singing understated melodies about Jesus. The hum of small town conversation fills the interludes. Nobody's trying to accomplish anything. Nobody's in a hurry. There's a lot of peace here.