Emily Dickinson and I walked into Starbucks

It’s a funny thing, Starbucks. It claims to be a coffeehouse. It greets you upon your entering with the deep, earthy, buzzing smell that boasts of a coffeehouse. It looks somewhat like a coffeehouse. In rare slow hours it sounds like a coffeehouse with its slow jazz or recently “discovered” musician drifting lazily over the scream of the espresso machines and the drone of contemplative people. And yet, there is something very different between Starbucks and a true coffeehouse. The furniture matches, the espresso is so-so, and the merchandise is pushed as much as the atmosphere, all of these contributing factors in the nearly undefinable gap between real coffee and Starbucks, still, there is something more than this. Starbucks is a place for business meetings and social gatherings. Starbucks buzzes, coffeehouses hum. The sacred air that coffeehouses hold which causes their visitors to keep an unspoken vow of library-like reverence is sorely missing from Starbucks and in its place, boisterous life. All of this, of course, is not bad. No, I quite like Starbucks thank you very much, I merely feel that is important to recognize that difference – the difference between that local haven of artists, students, philosophers, musicians, bibliophiles, dancers, and writers alike and that local meeting place of philanthropists, CEO’s, social beings, stay at home moms, and small business owners – the difference between the place of staying and pontificating, and the place of in and out as quickly as possible, unless otherwise planned. I had planned otherwise. I am not an “in and out” kind of person. I like to sit and soak in the atmosphere so that when I emerge, I carry with me the wafting scent and idea of the place I’ve left behind.  There truly is a lovely thing about the life bubbling throughout Starbucks this morning, spilling from person to person. There is a tragic something empty about it too – like a jazz song rippling through the steadily marching morning with only a brass harmony, and no strings or real melody; only pieces of a complex and beautiful puzzle. I thought about this for a while and came again to the conclusion that we are tragically beautiful people, who, with Jesus alone are whole and full and a meaningful harmony.
Emily Dickinson and my sister are my companions. My sister sits in a far off chair, sipping her coffee and writing in her journal, feeling and looking very grown up and important. I’m left to smile at the thought of her and her lovely mind and turn to Emily for companionship. She’s good, thought-provoking company, Emily Dickinson. I’ve read the first 15 or so poems in her book at least 5 times a piece and still they are lovely little puzzles – riddles to be pondered and unwoven until they lay plainly in front of you with at least a hundred different possibilities and answers. Reading Emily’s poems is peeking into the mind of one who sees the world as entirely not the same as everyone else – a wonderful, story-ful, sparkling, sorrowful, and entirely real place. Peering into this mind, I feel both very alive and very hopeless. Hopelessness comes from the wonderment at how one could see everything so poetically, capture it so beautifully. I feel that even she doesn’t know how she does it; it’s simply Emily and there is no rhyme, reason, or pattern to follow. I think Emily would frequent both Starbucks and coffeehouses; the former for writing, the latter for observing the world and its people through that lovely lens of hers. I have this philosophy that were I to sit with her amongst coffeehouses and Starbucks’ and parks and some splendid old house, those wonderful pieces of her that fall into her poems with such ease would seep from her to me. This is why Emily Dickinson and I walked into Starbucks this morning.


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