“The usual, Kate?”
“Yes, of course,” she laughed. She couldn’t wait for that chocolatey coffee concoction to hit her palate and signal the start of a new day. For an hour last night, she lay awake trying to decide if she would get up early and go for a walk or sleep in. She’d finally decided to sleep in, but her body had other plans. She woke up and followed its lead. The first stop had to be a mocha at Cafe Tosi’s.
She’d moved to this area trying to escape a job that was taking too much time, and, for the first time, she wanted to build a life. She turned 40 in January, and, it was time to really think about who she wanted to be and what she wanted out of life. She could feel time passing way too fast with too little heart. Kate had no idea what it would look like to be single and have free time. Work was always the default time-filler, and it was wreaking havoc with her soul. So, she took a position with her company that promised an 8-5 schedule. But of course, she knew that she could always stretch that out when she got lonely or bored. She made a promise to herself that she would put it down and leave at the close of business everyday regardless of whether or not she had anything else to do. So far, it felt like a long-awaited gift.
The first taste of Tosi’s mocha did not let her down. The best part of her morning ritual was that first sip. She took it, savored it for a minute and walked down to the bluff to look at the lake. It was August, and, in St. Joe, August is picture perfect. She was from Memphis, and the heat in August could sometimes be brutal at that time of year. The summers in Michiana – what they called the Michigan – Indiana area – were cool in the mornings and comfortable in the afternoons. The temps lingered at about 59 this morning, something she never would have seen in a mid-August southern summer. Every time she felt that cool morning air it surprised her. She’d grown so used to heat and humidity in the summer mornings.
She found a bench on the bluff and watched the boats go out on Lake Michigan. The lake was calm this morning. No doubt it would be a busy day later. Chicagoans vacation in this small historic town, and the summers are filled with pseudo-rich Midwesterners spending their hard-earned vacation time on the other side of the lake. Many have boats, and the lake would be teeming by noon with jet skiers, bikini-clad women taking in the sun on their pale Northern skin, and fisherman going out to wet a line.
Living in a vacation town had its own rhythm. The winters were quiet and secluded. Fabulous restaurants in business because of the summer crowds’ refined city palates dished up culinary treats in half-empty dining rooms. In the summer, restaurants were packed. For the locals, the winter, even though the brutal temps were a pain, was a great time to enjoy the amenities of a summer vacation spot. Great shops, fabulous cuisine and an atmosphere of we’re glad you’re here because we’re dying in the winter abounded. Shopkeepers and restaurant staff had time to talk and be friendly. It made bundling up to get out a more attractive proposition.
St. Joe is a Victorian town on the shore of Lake Michigan. At one time, there was an amusement park on Silver Beach. Kate had found pictures of people strolling on the beach in front of the wooden roller coaster dressed in clothes probably popular in the 20s. It looked like a happening place. Every time she sat on the bluff and watched the lakefront, she could imagine the ghost of the roller coaster rising into the mist and almost hear the voices of the carnys as they called to potential customers. Children laughing and screams from the roller coaster faintly tinged the air.
This morning, however, she was thinking about what to do for the weekend. She sat on a wooden bench with a clear view of the morning lakeshore and thought about her options. Right now, I just want to sit, she thought. A little sleepy still, she knew that she could grab a nap this afternoon to take the edge off, so she wanted to enjoy her sleepy mood. That little apple orchard in Coloma would probably be open now. That might be a nice drive to get a slice of their apple pie after lunch. She loved their apple butter, too, and she was out after last season’s jar.
She had been considering taking up running again. A runner in college, she overdid it and ended up hurting her knee. That was almost 20 years ago. On and off, she had tried running again, but with her Type A personality, she always overdid it. She went out too long and too fast and hated it. With her new, more laid back lifestyle, she was thinking she might try a training plan from Runner’s World magazine. She’d been subscribing for almost a year, using the magazine to rekindle a love of a sport that she’d long since given up. At first it was like reading a cookbook. She knew she never had any intention of doing most of the things in there. She was just living vicariously through its glossy pages of training tips and motivating stories about real runners. But, lately, she’d been thinking that maybe she had been training wrong – much like she’d been doing work wrong most of her life. Maybe it was time to try something different.
She thought about the article she read last night about the amputee who had run a marathon. It wasn’t an easy task. Not only did he have to get himself fitted with the right prosthesis, but he had to get his nub calloused enough to take the pounding of the prosthesis against his skin. Changing it and caring for it was an additional task on every run. Really? …. she had asked herself after finishing the article. If he can do that, surely I can run a 5K. At the same time that she was swallowing the last taste of the extra-sweet chocolatey mocha, a runner about her age ran by. “Okay,” she said out loud. “I’ll do it. I can do this.” She felt a little spark of passion rise inside her at the thought of starting a new project – a project that might give back to her in some way – not just take her time. For the first time in a long time, she felt excitement.