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Day 1: Waking Life in West Asheville

i started my 40 days of fika with a trip to west asheville. haywood road, to be exact. the new “place to be” in asheville. or at least i think i’ve heard that it’s the new place to be. anyway, it’s just a road, but a pretty long road, running from the center of downtown to west asheville. after crossing the river and a highway, it’s amazingness begins. cute arts & crafts homes, bungalows, and cottages line the streets. some remodeled and spiffed up. some delapidated and run-down. past the homes comes the heart of haywood road. cafes, bars, pubs, yoga studios, holistic schools, restaurants, tiny local shopping business, second hand & vintage shops, and coffee houses galore.

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though i discovered all of that amazingness after my coffee shop visit.

you see, i didn’t use my gps to get me to waking life. instead, i relied on my own sense of direction (which is usually impeccable), and in trying to take the back roads from downtown (so i could see all of the amazingness), i made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on the dang main road. grrr. i made my way through all the traffic and turned left onto haywood road, on the end as far from downtown as one could possible be. much to my surprise (i had now enabled my lovely gps assistant), just around the first bend was my destination.

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or was it?

it was a house. like a real, live, i-could-live-here house. but, yes. there was a sign in the front yard. waking life. i was here! let the fika-ing begin!

still stunned, i parked around back and got out, immediately snapping photos of the house. i couldn’t get over it. it was not what i expected at all. i thought i’d be entering some little brick-walled, warehouse-y, industrial shop. but, this was a real house. i felt a little uncomfortable, i must admit. there was a handicapped ramp, the only thing that made it look like a business; and a front porch, inviting me to come on in. a few people sat on the porch, macbook pros all fired up and deep in conversation with one another. a dog lay between their feet. i scoped out the table that i hoped would be free after i ordered my coffee.

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i opened the storm door and entered. whoa. again. not what i expected. now i was expecting a little vintage furniture, mix-matched, second-hand… you get my drift. what i saw was a very clean, minimalist, almost IKEA-inspired design. a few tables with chairs (all bar height) were in the “living room”, as was the coffee bar area. all of the tables were full with people either working alone or in conversation with one another. the barista, a funky, hipster 20-something greeted me, and i ordered a regular coffee and handed her my mug. oops. no more brewed coffee. so, she said she’d make me an americano instead. yes, thank you! more caffeine.

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while she whipped up my americano, i peeked around the rest of the house. down the hall was a “bedroom” which had a table and a sofa and chairs for sitting & working. two people tapped away at their computers in silence. down the hall and further back was a bathroom. complete with the bathtub! another bedroom was the office space. i was tempted to go upstairs, but it was roped off. i wasn’t feeling that adventurous today.

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i got my coffee, paid the 2 dollars, and headed out to my reserved (in my mind) table. it was still free! i sat on the far right end of the porch, facing the street. there were plants and bushes in the front of the house, making it cozy. i never really noticed the traffic, even though it whizzed by constantly. i became wrapped up in my reading, and writing, and by the mere fact that this journey of mine had now begun.

i wanted to talk more to people, but folks, i am an introvert, so it doesn’t come easily. still, i chatted a bit with the barista when she was making my coffee. she  had friends visiting from sweden, so we discussed the swedish dislike for american water. i totally get it now after living there for 3 years. our water here tastes like a pool. no lie. the only other time i opened my mouth was to ask the couple sitting with the dog to watch my things while i went to the bathroom with the cool tub. i suppose it’s okay that i kept mostly to myself. i was processing a lot.

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i do remember feeling overwhelmed with excitement. to be here. in asheville. just watching people. imagining their stories. feeling connected to sisters and brothers i have never met. i don’t know why i feel that way, but i do. there was one woman in particular i felt quite drawn to. she was a lovely, proud, african-american woman walking down the street, on the other side from where i was sitting. she never saw me, but i watched her as she strutted down the sidewalk, bag slung on her left arm, working her hot pink tank and jeans. where was she going? what was her story? and why was i so interested?

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i forgot about the woman for a while as i got engrossed again in the book i had with me, making notes and having a-ha moment after a-ha moment. suddenly, i looked up when a breeze caught my attention. just as i pulled my eyes up off the page, i saw the woman boarding the public bus. and then she was gone. and i was with my book again.

i got to thinking about community. and how i want to use these 40 days to meet people. to hear stories. to listen. to absorb the unique amazingness that each person has to offer.

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today, i enjoyed every minute of the waking life atmosphere, regular-looking house and all. oh, an dyes, i do recommend it as a great place to slow down. to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and to enjoy your coffee in simplicity. perhaps, this was the perfect place to “wake up” this new part of my life, whatever it may bring.

and tomorrow i’m gonna talk to someone. like for real.

namaste ~ liz

waking life . 976 haywood road . asheville, nc . www.wakinglifeespresso.com

About Liz McGuire

Liz is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer in Asheville, NC. She is a returning expat, re-adjusting to American life after living in Sweden for the past three years. On any given day you can find her planning her next adventure with her wife, blogging away on her blog (www.belovelive.com) about daily life and social issues, and discovering little hidden gems and secret places in the city. She faithfully totes her camera and her coffee mug everywhere she goes. And she’s always up for a conversation about spirituality, politics, or other taboo topics. You can find her on the web at www.belovelive.com.

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