I don’t make it by my favorite coffee shop as often as I’d like, but that adds to the anticipation and appreciation of the moments when I do. I entered the first time because it was new and only two blocks from where my wife works downtown. I return in part because they serve the best cup of fresh ground coffee in town against the backdrop of great jazz, but primarily because I find myself here. The floors are old–black and white honeycomb pattern–a nostalgic companion for the more contemporary brick, wood, and metal accoutrements that are well suited for a downtown coffee Mecca. I come here to reward myself for nothing in particular, a book tucked under one arm and cell phone at the ready. The place is called ‘Dichotomy’ because they serve coffee all day and spirits at night. I find my own dichotomy here–a place to work while relaxing, space to read and think while putting my mind in neutral. I imagine what it must have been like for writers to gather in their favorite haunt for debate and creative inspiration. C. S. Lewis and the other Inklings met Tuesdays at midday at a local pub called “The Eagle and Child,” best known in the Oxford community as “The Bird and Baby,” or simply “The Bird.” When Hemingway stayed in Venice during the winter of 1949-1950, he spent much of his time at Harry’s Bar, where he had a table of his own and often drank with the owner himself.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not comparing myself to those of literary or historical weight, merely suggesting that we rightly attach meaning to physical locations. It was so from the beginning. Adam and Eve grieved over their exile from The Garden because it was home and because the Creator had walked with them there. After losing his wrestling match with an angel, Jacob was the first to designate a spot as the “house of God and gate of heaven.” Moses piled up rocks to add weight to memories. David went often to his own “house” of God, while longing to erect a sturdy temple to replace the transient tent of meeting. Jesus had Gethsemane and wilderness places in which to retreat, recharge, and, finally, steel his resolve. The apostles returned to the upper room to remember who they were until the Holy Spirit could make them what they were destined to be.
Everyone needs a place where she or he finds room to dig deeper into themselves, a solitary or perhaps communal context for honest remembering and courageous planning. We face and conquer our fear in sacred spaces. Call it a reference point; hope has an address.