Aesthetic Visions: Pontificating

I’ve talked before about the nature of coffeehouses, of my love for the cold and hatred for the rain, pontificating endlessly on the various reasons why I love or hate such things in blog posts such as this that go on for far too long sometimes. And here I will do so again, for these are things I enjoy, constants in my life that I find aesthetically pleasing even if I don’t technically like them—i.e., the rain.

April, one of the rainiest months of the year, is my birth month. I always found it ironic that I, someone who loves sunlight far too much, was born during such a time, and at night, no less. (I really should ask my mom if it was raining the night I was born.) Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I, begrudgingly, allow rain into my aesthetic visions.

Though I suppose I should explain what I mean by ‘aesthetic visions.’

Generally, these have to do with the weather and me wearing a certain type of outfit, usually cradling a steaming cup of coffee or whatnot, and listening to my favorite music. Below are some excerpts from my journal to give you a better idea of what I mean:

September 24th, 2017

Autumn is slowly seeping into the air. The leaves are beginning to change and fall, and though it is still warm, I can feel the turn of the seasons in the crisp breezes of the morning and evening. I have started to take morning runs just to feel that chill in my lungs.”

            And another:

“October 1st, 2017

This morning it was 39 degrees. It’s around 47 now, and the high is only 67. The temperature will undoubtedly fluctuate in the weeks to come but the norm will be cold. October is the best month for autumn playlists and warm sweaters and hot coffee; it’s the best month for Halloween-themed candy and sweatshirts and drinks and costumes.

Four years I went without a true autumn. Winter at least existed in Mississippi—it could get cold-ish, down to the thirties at least, and sometimes there was “snow”, but autumn was passed over by the Deep South. No slow, creeping chills; no crisp leaves of yellow, orange, and red; no comfy boots and flushed cheeks on chilly October mornings. In fact, most Octobers in Mississippi were still hot. I often slept with the AC on high and wondered if my degree was worth it.”

That, then, is my aesthetic vision: cool autumn mornings, Octobers full of leaves in various warm colors, hot coffee and warm sweaters and boots crunching through the underbrush. And though I dislike rain, it can sometimes fit into those visions of mine.

Today is a perfect example of this.

It is October 23rd, nearly Halloween, nearly November. One step closer to Thanksgiving and then winter and then Christmas. I had a few errands to run in the town just over the mountain from my house—Pulaski, a rundown caricature of what it once was. The town is dying now, as it has been for the past twenty years or so, just barely holding onto life, erecting new hotels and restaurants in a hopeful attempt to stay relevant.

Despite its failing nature, Pulaski still has things for me. The library of my childhood resides there, recently updated to include new selections every few weeks and even an automated system that emails you when your books are due. I started to stop by there again at the beginning of September and found myself pleasantly surprised by the updates. Now I go back every two weeks or so to check out new books and return ones well-read.

A quaint little coffee shop in downtown Pulaski has also caught my attention. It’s called The Coffee Grinder, and it’s got quite a steady local clientele. The atmosphere of the place still leaves a bit to be desired—the decorum is nice, with lots of plush chairs to recline in and tables and chairs and message boards with quotes about coffee, but the florescent lighting is a bit too garish to properly convey that rustic coffee shop feel. The owner assured me, however, that she is working to change this.

Besides that, the place is nice, the coffee good, and the prices not too bad either. It’s also quite a relief to finally have a coffee shop so close; previously, the closest one was a Starbucks in Wytheville which, as I mentioned before, has too much of that corporate feel to give me the true aesthetic atmosphere I long for in coffee shops.

(Wow, I sound like such an elitist hipster. I suppose that goes with the meaning of pontificate, though.)

Anyway, finishing that tangent, I went into Pulaski today for a couple of reasons: to fill up my car, return some due library books, check out a few more, and then sit in The Coffee Grinder and read until I found myself locked in Writer’s Overdrive. 

It was raining this morning when I woke up, to my dismay, and it had only gotten worse as the day went on. By the time I got ready and left for Pulaski, the clouds were releasing a steady downpour, and I had to don my newly-acquired waterproof trench coat as I climbed into my Impala and headed off.
I got gas once I got into town, dropped by the library to return and check out books, and then stopped by The Coffee Grinder. There were a few other people in there, chatting over light lunches offered by the shop, but I paid them no mind as I got myself a vanilla latte and then curled up in a chair to read.

Falling into the rhythm of reading a wonderful book is easy. Some books, you have to force yourself into that position—either the book takes a bit of time to warm up to, or you’re not in the right mood, or a combination of both. Today, however, not only was I in the right mood, but the book I was reading—Uprooted by Naomi Novik—had the uncanny ability to pull me in with a single word. Within seconds, I was engrossed, happily sipping at my coffee and turning pages so fast I didn’t even notice the other customers leave until I was the only one left. At one point, during a particularly frustrating moment in the plot, I accidentally exclaimed “no!” aloud, startling the owner who laughed it off when I explained I had gotten too caught-up in my book.

“It must be good if you’re reacting like that,” she said with a smile.

I nodded. “It is.”

After a few more moments of short conversation (the owner of that coffee shop is honestly one of the best things about the place and the main reason I go back; she’s so friendly and easy to talk to, a calming presence that warms the too-cold nature of the fluorescent lighting), I returned to my book, again sucked right in. It wasn’t until I got a message on my phone that I glanced at the time and realized two hours had passed. Not only that, but I had read nearly half of the book in a single sitting.

“When do you close?” I asked the owner.

“I close when it gets too slow,” she said, “Usually, rainy days are our slowest, so I close around four.”

My phone said it was three thirty. “Oh,” I said, frowning.

“I’m in no hurry to go out in that, though,” she amended, gesturing to the front door. I turned to see the steady rain had become more of a torrential downpour. “So take your time.”

“All right, thanks.”

I figured she was just being polite, though, so I decided to still leave before four. I read a bit longer, and then stopped once I got to the next chapter, gathering up my things before I ordered a drip coffee on my way out.

“For the road,” I told the owner, “Though it’s not a long one. I just live over the mountain.”

She grinned and handed over my coffee, along with a rewards card. “All our regulars get these,” she explained. “You get a free coffee after buying seven.”

I thanked her, hugged my coffee close, pulled up the hood of my trench coat, and walked out into the worsening rain. Not only was it heavy, but the rain was cold as well, the thick drops a shock against the exposed skin of my hands. I stuck one hand in my pocket and then bent over the one holding my coffee, trying my best to shield it as I splashed through puddles and walked down the street toward my car. By the time I reached the Impala, I was staring at the ground more than anything, going off of memory as I curled myself around my coffee cup and tried my best to slide into my car without soaking myself.

My trench coat took the brunt of the damage, but I was still a bit damp as I got situated and put the key in the ignition. I noticed with a frown that I’d jostled my coffee when I got inside as well, spilling some on the end of my coat, but shrugged it off. A little coffee wouldn’t hurt it.

The ride home was nice, overlaid with Hayley Kiyoko’s smoky voice as I tapped my fingers along to her music.

I over communicate and feel too much.
I just complicate it when I say too much.
Laugh about it, dream about that casual touch.
Sex is fire, sick and tired of acting all tough.”

My mind was brimming by the time I got home. Writer’s Overdrive was in full swing, my thoughts a cup spilling over with words, splashing about in my head with nowhere to go, aching to be put down on paper. I sat down immediately to write this, knowing I had little to go off of save the rain and thoughts of aesthetic visions, but needing, burning, to articulate my thoughts in writing.

As a final thought for this convoluted mess without a point, I offer you this poem that best describes my feelings towards the rain, despite my continued profession of hatred toward it. Because while I certainly hate getting wet, and I hate how the rain impedes my ability to go on walks or enjoy the gentle golden rays of sunlight, sometimes it fits my aesthetic vision, warranting at least a small smile as I grip my steaming coffee close and let the words in my mind tip over the edge, unfettered.

“rain bleeds down
rivulets of sky-born tears
a promise of a red sunrise
and clouds
the color of autumn leaves.

I watch them
drip drip down my windshield
splash through puddles
reflecting yellowed streetlights

my soul catches
in those drops

in the aftermath, a brontide
sky rumbles far-off
and sleep escapes

rain
is such melancholy
madness—a writer’s best friend,
an insomniac’s
worst enemy.”

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