Of Coffee and Sunsets

Don’t look away while the coffee is brewing or the sun is setting.”

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The Cabana in my backyard is my favorite place to go for uninterrupted, focused thinking time and reflection.  I take advantage of it not only during my scheduled thinking time but when unexpected opportunities arise as well.

The ritual that gets me in the mood for these sessions is to fire-up the coffee pot perched on the east counter top so that I am able to sit facing it. That way I have a great view of the sun rising in the morning and if it’s the end of the day, of the sun setting.  As often as I can, I try to be sitting and settled in a little before sunrise or just before sunset.

There are two brief, special moments that occur in this ritual that are the main motivating factors for me. In fact, I go out of my way in arranging my schedule just so I can experience them. The first is watching the steam rise from the coffee pot at the very end of the brewing cycle….the pot gurgles and churns as it empties the last of the hot water into the carafe. The way the light refracts off the floating wisps of steam and the changing shapes makes for an almost magical experience. The second is watching the reliable retreat of the suns fading rays in the form of a light-line that inches its way up a few selected Oaks and cedars that have now become familiar “sign posts” for me.  I love those moments and look forward to them.

Now here is the rub: while planning, anticipating, charging the coffee pot, going out of my way to be in place and only needing to be observant in order to experience these moments that are a mere few minutes from occurring, I have often missed them!!! Why?  Because I became distracted with something much less important. In fact, it is usually the mundane and ordinary that I allow to steal these more important moments away; like looking at my calendar (or checking e-mail), repositioning something not quite in its place, and a dozen other similar things.  I then look up and only catch a final glimpse of what I came for or have missed it altogether.

The last time that happened and I was kicking myself for it, it dawned on me that life is a lot like that for us, more often than we want to admit. The only difference is that the special moments we plan for and anticipate are much more important than watching coffee brew and the sun set.  Like not fully enjoying the hilarious word or act by your kid (or grandkid), missing out on an chance to encourage your colleague, or simply bathe in the moment of a hard fought “win” of some sort.  Why? Because we become distracted with the ordinary.  Can you relate?

I know what I am saying is common sense, but common sense is not common practice.  If you aren’t intentional about being observant and in the moment, you will end up trading the special for the mundane more often than you might imagine. By reminding myself to not look away while the coffee is brewing or the sun is setting, I am missing fewer special moments less.  What’s your reminder?