Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Picture Made of Words

Due to a scheduling glitch, I needed to take the kids to school this morning, putting me in Stevensville about three hours before I need to go to a meeting in Missoula this afternoon. There isn't any sense in going back to Corvallis, but I don't have many errands I need to run in the mean time, so I am sitting at my favorite coffee hang-out, the Olde Coffee Mill, for a bit.

Those of you who have been out here for a visit before have probably been here, but I wish I could bring each of my good friends here for a cuppa something. It's a really cool little spot, in a small-town sort of a way.

The shop is made up of one large-ish main room, where the food is prepared and served and where the oak and glass display cases show off the delicious fresh baked goods. High shelves are lined with a dizzying array of the standard bottles of flavored coffee syrups, as well as mugs, water glasses, cups and saucers and jars of tea. Several smaller rooms, no larger than bedrooms, flank this main one and are filled with assorted tables and chairs. Wide doorways between the rooms and odd bits of architecture show where this historic building has served many purposes over the years.

I am sitting at the front table in the room by the window, the only table where a wireless signal can be picked up from the library across the street. It is a round table with a festive plaid table cloth under glass and four scuffed and scratched old wooden chairs around it, each one different. All of the tables and chairs here are the same--in that nothing matches. I love it. Some of the tables are covered like mine, some feature crude white paper snowflakes under glass and some are left bare.

To my left is the self-serve coffee table, four vacuum thermos pots running the gamut from light to dark with decaf closest to me and "cowboy coffee" down at the other end. A circular wire rack sits across from me, displaying handmade greeting cards for sale which were made by an older lady at my church. In the corner of my room stands a five-foot artificial Christmas tree, a scraggly thing covered with white lights and simple ornaments made of popsicle sticks, felt and clothespins. A sign next to it gives credit to a second grade classroom at a local elementary school. I suppose it was a class project.

The walls are covered with the work of local artists, both painters and photographers. Crowded around them are hung various forms of Christmas decor, garlands and wreaths and ribbons and ornaments and bells. My favorite is the simple garland made from cheap red ribbon and pine cones that hangs over and around a doorway. It's really quite cheery. The kids and I could make that for pennies, with all the pine cones that we have at the Homestead.

In the far back corner is a tall hat rack next to a dainty white table, both completely covered with fancy ladies' hats. There is a separate back room which is used for formal tea parties, popular with both old ladies and little girls, and these hats are available to wear, for those who don't have a proper hat to go with their tea and crumpets.

But the character of the place comes in the atmosphere, something that is difficult to define in words. Ginny, the owner, just wandered through in her stained apron, greeting and hugging her customers, her friends. The ladies working behind the counter chat casually while they make lattes and deli sandwiches. No one is in a hurry here and everyone stops to chat. I've seen several people I know since I sat down here a couple of hours ago. One sat down at my table and visited for a half an hour.

It is a simple little place--not at all like a trendy and hip Starbucks--but there is a certain charm to it.

And it is peaceful, so peaceful.


alison said...

Well, I wish I could have sat there with you this morning.

Mister Ed T said...

Lived in a place or two like that. They have their character. Their personalities blend with that of the people. Relationships is what its all about.

Anonymous said...

You described it perfectly -- I remember it well!