I'm in this coffee shop in the snowy mountains of Northern California and this one guy begins. He's older than me, around 60 something, long gray hair, wearing his pajama bottoms and a Deadhead T-shirt, sandals, and a long bead necklace. He's the real deal-an old hippie. He's sitting with a thin, balding man who is wearing blue jeans, a dark T-shirt, and very dark glasses. Kerouak's ghost. The hippie is holding his cup of coffee up and studying it. He wonders aloud at the depth of value in the "bean". 'Yeah, but only in free verse, man', comments Kerouak. 'I'm thinking of the moods-lots of them.' continues the hippie. 'Yeah, dig it. Lot's of them, man,' says Kerouak. And so they continue, examining the virtue of the bean, and digging the verse. I'm with my wife, and my aging mother. There is snow on the hippie's bicycle just outside the door, but it is warm in the coffee shop. My mother is in awe of the conversation next to us, watching intently with a tilted smile, and I realize for the first time what a beautiful young woman she must have been. My wife holds her coffee in both hands, steam rising close to her face, and I can tell by the way she stares unfocused at the table that she is listening as well. I'm aware that I'm in one of those rare moments of simplistic beauty and perfection. An old man who has been reading silently at a small table near the fireplace joins the conversation, observing casually that 'the bean is quite possibly too sacred for verse, and would perhaps make better lyric'. Outside, the snow has begun to fall again. Kerouak nods his head, 'yeah, sacred, man'. It is late morning, and we've still a long way to go. And a Christmas tree to find. Sacred, man.
Lorena Kunkel, 1932-2009
A beautiful heart who taught us to love. And to smile.