After I finished college I did sort of a walk about, from Idaho I was lucky enough to wander to Europe and a few other places before I ended up in a small mountain town in Colorado. Silverton, Colorado to be exact.
Silverton is an old mining town with a small population that sits in a small bowl, surrounded by 12,000 foot mountain peaks. It is mostly a tourist town now that depends on the draw of the tourist railroad, the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge, for its livelihood.
I ended up spending five years in this small town working at the museum and archives, learning lessons about life and love that I thought you had to learn in big New York like settings, and finding a bit of truth in myself.
This morning though, as the fall weather creeps under my skin, I am reminded of Silverton. Fall was when she shone brightest. Mountainsides of Aspen trees readying themselves for the coming winter, trees in the streets withered their summer splendor, and every angle in that small town was like having a front row seat to a glorious show that I came to long for every year and at the same time, hated to see go.
I was in the early throws of my coffee love in those days. College I couldn’t afford good coffee, still I was picky amid the Folgers and Maxwell Houses, getting the more expensive of the generic coffees. When I moved to Colorado, I had a bit of an income and I could go a few steps up in my coffee love, there was a local coffee that didn’t taste so much like it was halved with dirt that I tried to always have on hand. There was one coffee shop in town and I would switch between a cup of coffee and a chia tea latte, splurging every now and then on my treasured cappuccino. I didn’t know how to make them at home yet, even though I tried International Foods French Vanilla Cappuccino and the Nescafe versions that were so popular at the time, none of them sated me.
What does Silverton have to do with coffee, you might ask? It just so happens that one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had was in that small mining town.
I worked early mornings, but in the fall months, excitement would wake me at the crack of dawn, lest I miss one moment of the glory. I woke before most of the town, before the tourists, before the train and I would wrap myself up in a few layers and since everything was walking distance in that small town, I’d head to work with a Saturday ritual of splurging for breakfast out first.
The dirt street crunched beneath my feet, the cool crisp morning air soothed me, or maybe it was the moment to think, a moment to myself that soothed. Smoke from chimneys lingered in the still morning air, twirling up into the sky. Daylight was upon us, but it would take some time for the sun to hike above the 12,000 feet and shine its rays on the small town.
The changing aspen trees rustled themselves awake in those moments and my own soul was catching fire with the oranges and reds and at the same time was soothed with the still greens and recently turned yellows.
I always went to breakfast at the same small café on those fall Saturday mornings. The name of the café escapes me now. The establishment was nothing to write home about, an old house, the front room which held about eight tables, a worn out look to the floor, the smoky air, the plastic tablecloths and the few pictures that hung on the wall. But there was something about all of this added together that was welcoming and uninhibited.
I would sit at a table by the front window, a view of the mountains within reach. An over exuberant women of about sixty would ask me how I was, have already put an order in for my usual, two slices of French toast, bacon and two scrambled eggs, then she’d bring me heaven.
A steaming cup of coffee in a sturdy brown restaurant issued cup.
I would add a sugar and a creamer and stir while I finished my obligatory small talk with the proprietor, a woman who reflected the age of her establishment and the joy of it, too. Her curiosity sated, she would leave me to my morning moment.
Staring out the front window, at a view I had stared at for at least three years now, and that I couldn’t get enough of, I would hold my coffee cup for a moment to warm my cold hands and let the steam fill my nose. Then that first glorious sip, of something that was more than just a cup of coffee. It was as if the heady warmth that slipped into my stomach was life itself, an acknowledgement of the tide and time that we are all swept up in, and the moment taken out to embrace the glory of it all.
Coffee and breakfast gone, I would resign myself to the work of the day, waved my farewells and headed to the museum.
I wrote many odes to those glorious mornings and coffee, trying to capture it, to hold it tight perhaps, to make sure it really did happen.
Either way, it is memories like these which I give a nod to T. S. Eliot as I realize I truly “have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” That sometimes coffee can be made glorious by the moments and scenery surrounding it.