We spend most of our days doing things out of necessity. We work, more than we probably should. We run errands. We spend too much time with technology. We sit in traffic. We cook dinner. We sleep. Our routines don’t allow much time for us to just be…us. To do the kinds of things that calm our spirits, help us discover how freeing laughter can be and remind us of all there is to enjoy in the world. To have good days. Even perfect days.
If I were to design the perfect day, it would start with waking to birds chatting back and forth – no unnatural alarm sounds. I look out an open window to golden beams of sunlight gleaming through branches swaying slightly with the breeze. Something straight from the first pages of a storybook.
The best part about a morning that starts in such a way is knowing the day is yours to make of what you will. The best attire for an open agenda – an unagenda, let’s call it – is comfy jeans and a plain white cotton tee dressed up with a wispy scarf. Ready-for-whatever wear.
Windows down, stereo up. Shortly after I press my foot to the gas pedal, I sing and dance like a tone-deaf adolescent monkey all the way to my favorite lunch destination, Great Harvest Bread Company in Minnetonka. First introduced to this delightful place by my dad, I’ve been a regular enjoyer for years. Each sandwich is made to a self-completed order form, first name at the top. While you wait, you can try bits of any or all of the freshly baked breads of the day. No place else have I had a fresher tasting sandwich and friendlier service. There’s one lady in particular who always recognizes me and gives me a just baked pull-apart oatmeal cookie with speckles of cinnamon and chocolate pieces at no charge. As tempting as it is to start with dessert, I first finish my sandwich, which is a treat in itself. The honey whole wheat has a soft, grainy feel that only baked-that-day bread can have. Two slices surround thinly sliced turkey and provolone cheese, sliced minutes before, and leafy green lettuce. Each bite tastes straight-from-the-farm fresh.
No day could possibly be perfect in my mind without time to write. Aside from my favorite people, it is what makes me happiest. Days like this bring out the best of ideas. Good moods lend themselves well to good writing. A good place to do it is also necessary. It somehow came to be that a coffee shop is one of the only public places, aside from the library, where it’s socially acceptable to sit alone for as long as you’d like. I’d bet they’d let you stay even if you didn’t order anything. Just like the library. Well, except better because there are caffeinated drinks and snacks of some kind. I love snacks. I even love the word snack. Snack. Snaaaaaaack. Once I have my drink and snack in hand, I meander through the table maze to the mini-sofa placed in that space for people like me. No, not people who’ve barely surpassed 5 feet and can comfortably spread their legs out across small furniture. People who’ve come in search of a spot conducive to free-flowing thoughts and escapable distractions. And there I sit. I write. I toss my head back a few times as if that’s a recharge mechanism for ideas. I unconsciously stroke the sides of my short blonde hair until the next word comes to me. I leave feeling accomplished, even if I’ve only written a few paragraphs. I’ve done something. And it was for me. No one but me.
As I said, the happiest of things is talking with my favorite people. Good, good people are rare. And I’ve found the best way to live a full life is to surround yourself with them. I can count them on about a hand and a half. My favorite people have a way of making me feel better about the world, and better about me. They bring out the best in me. I feel elated, albeit to different degrees, every time I talk with one of them. Serious or ridiculous, our conversations are energizing. Not in a pink bunny pounding a drum kind of way. It’s a kind of strength fueled by a restoration of faith in the potential of people to affect you and your capacity for affecting them. We have conversations every day, but usually they are simply that – everyday. It’s a special day when you can have the kind that makes you better than you were before it.
Next up, dinner. Destination: Green Mill in Uptown. There are 28 Green Mill locations in the Midwest, but this was one of the first. The outdated décor gives it a classic charm. The warm, dark wood of the older booths and the bar deserve to be preserved, not renovated. The multi-colored light fixtures are probably the newest addition and even they are a bit behind the times. But that’s why I love it. That and the food. The food is as pleasantly anomalous as the atmosphere. I order the same thing every time, and every time it’s a little different. French dressing. Pasta sauce. Garlic butter. Chicken wing sauce. Whatever the dish, it’s made from scratch each day. This place is an unsuspected gem. It keeps me coming back week after week. There’s something special about being a regular somewhere. I’m recognized and welcomed with a “How have you been?” Reserved for familiar patrons, this greeting is far more heartwarming than the “How are you?” heard by the newcomers and occasional visitors. When you don’t need a menu and your server doesn’t need an order because she already knows what you like, that’s when you’ve found a home away from home.
My usual Green Mill order is only made better when followed by some type of sweet treat. Not just any one will do, either. Perfect days call for near perfect dessert. Sebastian Joe’s ice cream holds a special place among my taste buds. It’s dense, yet penetrable by plastic spoon. Each spoonful that’s pulled from the naturally flavored mounds of chocolate and vanilla draws a lace of cold, velvety frozen dessert from dish to spoon until it gets so thin it breaks away, curling up to the spoon. I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream in my lifetime and only homemade ice cream does this. This is good stuff, people.
During the short part of the year when the sun stays out well past dinnertime, post-dessert activities can take place outside. It wasn’t until I started to travel more often, that I developed such a strong appreciation for the access I have to water as a Minnesotan. Lakes, rivers, falls, streams, ponds – it’s everywhere. I love it. There is nothing as calming as water. The way it glistens in the sun and rushes against its shoreline and ripples away from a fishing lure, rock, or footsteps. A waterfront view of the sunset is my idea of a storybook ending to a perfect day.