Signs, Signs Everywhere are Signs

I almost stepped on a crow the other day. A cawing crow was sitting outside on the sidewalk and completely ignored the fact that I was walking straight at it. It finally flew up to the fence, but that couldn’t have been a good sign right? I wondered what he might have been trying to tell me…

“Careful!! It’s icy!”

“Hey…do you know where I can find some food?”

Who knows how black crows got a bad rap, but I took it as a sign of warning. Just after seeing the crow, I ran into someone with whom I have had an incredibly strained relationship. We both pretended that everything was fine and that our last conversation, that was so, so, soooo uncomfortable, really didn’t happen. That was what the crow was trying to tell me.

“Watch out! It’s coming!!”

It worked out fine, but right after my surface conversation ended, I knew immediately that the crow had prepared part of my psyche for the chance encounter. I was grateful and a little weirded out.

Then, that same day, I was scheduled to go to a local coffee shop and bakery, and I was already thinking I was fated for something with a visit there. I should probably tell you what happened to make me think that the visit was going to be more than just lunch.

Over New Year’s Eve weekend, I drove from our cabin into town to get some work done on campus. I stopped at my favorite coffee shop, Cravings, only to discover that it was closed down. I was so sad and of course worried about an impending headache, but I got my work done quickly enough to get back to the cabin before my caffeine addiction caused me any trouble. New Year’s Eve, I was talking with a friend who had come over for the evening, and I was talking about how my favorite coffee shop had closed.

“I don’t want to go to the big chain coffee place…it is not buckaroonies. Where do I get coffee now?” I asked her…she is local and I commute.

“Oh, there are a couple places. There is that little kiosk that, I think, has the best coffee in town.”

“I’ll have to try that. I’ve heard it’s good.”

“Oh, there is the Golden Leaf Cafe’ too, have you heard of that?”

Actually, I had. I noticed the building on one of my drives through town and I was struck by how cute the outside was and how creative the name sounded. It had been a blip on my radar, but it was on the side of town that I rarely visit.

That was the end of my coffee house investigation, or so I thought.

Sunday, January 3 I was coaching the soccer clinic that we run on Sundays in the winter, and at the end of the clinic, one of the moms, who is also a friend of mine, came up to me carrying a business card.

She handed it to me and said, “Hey, I just stopped by this place while you were doing the clinic, and I had mentioned where I was, so she asked me to give you her card. I don’t know her, but she is hoping to maybe do a promotional deal for the kids, if you’re interested.”

I looked down at the card and it said: Golden Leaf Cafe. I couldn’t believe it. Yes, it is a small town, and it is not really that big of a deal, but I tend to read in a lot to coincidental events.

I took the card and every part of me became interested in visiting this place that had been the topic of discussion twice in three days. So that is how I ended up scheduling a lunch at the Golden Leaf Cafe.

Driving from campus to the cafe, I passed the newspaper office where I had worked for five months. It was a short stint, but a memorable and important one for my writing. I thought about pulling into the parking lot to visit my editor, but remembered that I had some actual work to do on campus, so I pressed on to the cafe so I could get my lunch.

As I pulled into the parking spot at the cafe, I noticed in the window a pair of women talking. I recognized one of them immediately…it was the editor from the paper where I had worked. I jumped out of the car, interrupted their conversation briefly to hug her and we talked quickly about the progress of my book and life with my three kids. It is always great to see people with whom you will always connect, no matter how much time and life can separate you.

Sauntering up to the counter, to order my lunch, I am struck by the creative energy in this place. There is a small area for gifts, a menu of feel-good items that includes scones, cookies, pasties, paninis and a long list of teas and coffees. I order some tea and a pasty, introduce myself to the owner and find a seat near a window. I am browsing through a magazine when Elena, the owner, pulls up a chair to talk about the options for promotion with the camp.

The entire time we are talking, I cannot help thinking how perfect this place is, and how the space seems just right for hosting a book reading tea party. We finish our conversation about the soccer clinics, and I move the discussion to whether they ever host events.

She gets me out of my chair and shows me to a back room that is in the preparation stage for events such as mine. We are standing in the room, and everything about it feels right. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Elena starts talking about how things used to be in her native Ecuador.

“Every day at 4 o’clock, you were welcome in anyone’s home for tea. There would be a long table filled with delicious pastries and the women would gather to drink tea and to talk. It was the gossip talk about who was sleeping with whom and who was having affairs. Us girls would quietly sip our drinks and nibble on our treats. We dare not say anything because if we did the women would scold with a finger and say, ‘I was not talking to you.’ So if we wanted to get the gossip, we stayed quiet and just listened.”

I am floored and fascinated by this description. I asked about whether men were ever present and she told me that the women didn’t work, so the 4:00 tea was women and children, but the men would gather at their place of work for a 4:00 coffee break.

The Golden Leaf is a perfect place! For six years I have periodically attempted to recreate a tradition that I feel is slowly disappearing. With the research for my book, I brought women together for “tea parties”. I was tired of getting together with other women under the stipulation that I buy something at the direct sales parties. I wanted just to get together to talk, and the success of the parties tells me that I am not the only one who feels that way. Women rarely gather just to gather, and it is not a good thing.

I will be back at the Golden Leaf Cafe, and I hope to set up a couple tea party readings this spring. I realize that everything that happened to me that day could be purely coincidence, and I could be seeing what I want to see, but if seeing what I want to see makes me feel like I am in the right place at the right time, I will continue looking for signs with my jaded glasses.

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