Think about the drive to work today, or the drive home. With or without a mobile phone in use, how often were your thoughts somewhere else?
We often cruise familiar turf preoccupied with thoughts outside the present moment and space. Could it be we are similarly programmed to look elsewhere for things that perhaps are right under our nose?
Take hiking and coffee. The airplanes are full this time of year with travelers headed to Oregon to enjoy the state’s trails and java shops. Since moving to Portland I’ve even taken up hiking. It bares a strong resemblance to what I once called walking, but the scenery is different and I do it regularly with friends – something I never did in Tulsa. “In Tulsa,” I have explained, “the harsh weather keeps us inside socializing over food and wine.” In Portland I feel like a kid again, playing outside with chums.
I Goggled hiking Tulsa and got 322,000 results. I Goggled coffee houses Tulsa and got 45,800 (substituting Portland for Tulsa yields 2,140,000 and 290,000 results respectively.)
Clearly I could have hiked in Tulsa everyday of the over 30 years I lived there. And despite 107 degree weather this month, I did – twice! Not with the same companion both times but that’s beside the point. Come October, I am confident both will consider joining me again. Both my August outings acquainted me with Turkey Mountain on the west side of the Arkansas River. I’d only been there once before though I still own a house just three miles west on 71st Street. With a heat index of 115 degrees, you may wish clothing was optional but the tree canopies protect you from the sun; bottled water combats the heat. And (thanks Julie!) I learned a simple way to navigate this unfamiliar urban wilderness: consistently climbing up hill not only provides a better workout but makes later finding the parking lot and your car as simple as walking (excuse me, hiking) downhill. In Portland’s Washington Park, my strategy is simply to follow whoever is ahead of me and keep tabs on my off-leash Whippets.
When it comes to coffee, my approach is equally simple. I usually get my daily dose brewed at home in one of those noisy “by the cup” machines that will wake the dead in the morning but yet go relatively unnoticed by chatty dinner guests many hours later in the day. Though I live in Portland, where Starbucks coffee beans are roasted, I buy Topeca Coffee in Tulsa and cart it home in my suitcase. (Each and every time I open my suitcase to find an airport security inspection notice. I can only figure I am suspected of using coffee beans to throw off the hounds sniffing for other substances.)
I buy Topeca coffee as much for the story, as the taste. Topeka was founded by John Gaberino and his wife Maria, a woman from El Salvador whose family has owned and operated a coffee plantation for six generations. I remember years ago when John used to serve up samples of the coffee for Petty’s shoppers. When the coffee market hit one of its lowest points, the Gaberinos and Maria’s relatives had determined the best way to continue the business for another six generations was to take the product from the field to the consumer, a process they dubbed “seed to cup.” This last trip to Tulsa I finally met Maria. It’s an easy task to find her in their relatively new cafe downtown.
When the Mayo Hotel in downtown Tulsa reopened after 30 years -sporting a $50 million plus renovation, Topeca Coffee opened a cafe on the ground floor. It’s an inviting spot with glass table tops resting on trays of coffee beans, comfy leather sofas and over-sized photo portraits of plantation employees, like Miguel, who works on the patios. As the portrait label reads, “Topeca uses a traditional method of sun-drying fresh beans on large patios. Beans must be raked and turned often to ensure all moisture is gone.” In Tulsa, beans from El Salvador are roasted on site daily and freshly brewed coffee is served with an assortment of pastries and sandwiches. I’ve read the Starbucks story; I don’t get the same feeling from it as I do talking to Maria or John.
The next time you are yearning to explore or wishing for a change of scenery, try looking at home with fresh eyes.