During the first few months of our lives back at the ranch, my favorite thing about having no set plans was that I could drink my coffee out of a real cup in the morning.

And when I say real cup, I mean one without a lid, one not made for moving or driving or rushing out the door. Instead, I grabbed a ceramic coffee cup with a handle, one that sits on the table and lets the steam reel off the top as I read or wrote or watched the news scroll on my TV in the morning.

It was and is a simple pleasure, one that’s less about the coffee and more about the idea that I didn’t need to drink it while rushing out the door after primping, buttoning and finding the right shoes and earrings to match it all.

In that first year of living on the ranch, I brewed and sipped that coffee in the same kitchen where I used to sit and watch my grandma serve up a cup and a slice of something sweet to a neighbor who popped over or one of her brothers swinging in for a visit on his way home from picking up equipment.

I liked the ease of how she poured that steaming liquid into a cup held by the grease-stained and weathered hands of a working man. Even then, when I was too young to ask for my own cup, the bitter smell and the gurgle of it percolating meant time for a visit, time for the overshoes to come off and for those men to lean back, talk, tease and take a moment.

Taking a moment. I used to be better at it. Sometimes it seems like we all were.

Stopping over for coffee was how I was raised. Weekends were spent working cows or fixing fence, and then maybe taking the old pickup down the highway to borrow a tool or a piece of equipment. Then you took a break, had a visit.

Poured a cup.

When I moved away from this place as a teenager, the thought of losing those moments had me a bit panicked. I was aware then, almost 14 years ago now, that this place was emptying out, those neighbors were growing older, some were packing up their dishes and kitchen tables and moving to town.

I worried I would move away and come back to find all of those houses, once so full of life and rhubarb dessert, empty. The paint would be peeling and lawns would be overgrown, while the rest of the world moved on, rushing to keep up and make it between city sidewalks and stoplights.

I worried that by the time I decided to come home there would be no cowboys kicking off overshoes in messy farmhouse entryways.

And then there I was, home and old enough to make myself a cup and sit sipping, writing stories in the very kitchen where I fell in love with the art of conversation.

I’ve sped up our lives considerably since then, taking my coffee with a lid more days than I want to or sipping it while sitting facing a computer and a deadline.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where we get those ideas that have us answering, “How’ve you been?” with “Oh my gosh. It’s been so busy!” and then rushing to the next appointment. There’s no time for a long chat or a plan to get together, because these days we need to write it down on the schedule or put it on the calendar.

Is there more to do now than there was then? I suppose the answer has a lot to do with our own ideas of what we want our lives to look like and how building it that way finds us up too early and home too late.

I suppose the answer is that sometimes we forget coffee tastes better when served up at a table, facing one another, overshoes kicked off, leaned back, laughing and sipping from a real cup.

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