I'm writing this near the end of September in a well-known chain that sells coffee and bagels. I was afforded some free time while a family member keeps an appointment, and so I ordered my own mug and pastry. Since it is still early in the fall months, I've ordered a pumpkin muffin, my first of the season. It tastes as delicious as I expect. I also could have chosen a pumpkin-shaped cookie with orange icing if I'd been so inclined, but today the muffin won out.
As I find an empty booth and begin unloading several items from my bag, my thoughts turn to what this place and most others will look like around the beginning of November. Pumpkin muffins will likely give way to ones with green or red sprinkles. The icing will change to those colors as well, the cookies themselves probably shaped like trees or ornaments. Tinsel will hang from the lights and carols will play softly over the speakers.
My first reaction to these thoughts is a silent sneer. I always lament Christmas' encroachment into my favorite season, where the autumn themes disappear too soon, at least from where I'm sitting. How early will it begin this year? How many pumpkin muffins should I hoard for later before they're taken away?
Then I begin to listen to the present moment. A man is on his phone wishing an unknown someone happy birthday, promising to buy them a present before he sees them next. Several students are on laptops clicking away on assignments. Two young women are engaged in a hushed yet passionate discussion about mutual acquaintances. Restaurant workers share information about orders they need to prepare. A little boy tells his father about his day. Each of them hold inside their own concerns, a little of which you can see or hear if you pay attention, but so much more is underneath.
I take a moment to wonder what they're worried about or what they're hoping for as soon as tomorrow. I wonder what's bringing them joy, since I'm writing this for the week when that's what we're especially supposed to be mindful of. I listen and look here for joy, and there is some, but it might be to mask something else or it might be more elusive than that.
And when those tree cookies appear and that tinsel dangles above these same interactions, will joy be any more overt? And more importantly, will it be genuine? What are each of these people waiting for now that might come about by the time the decorations and songs and themed confections provide the backdrop for moments like ours?
How will joy arrive? How might it yet keep hidden?
For me, my joy is in this muffin. I'm trying not to look too far ahead because it means I'll miss the pumpkin-flavored now. Joy will manifest in another way by then. I'm content to wait and see.
Image via FreeFoto.