I’m sitting on a little deck with a river flowing by below. Crisp morning, mountain air,
the young green-leafed trees sparkling in the sunlight. I’ve just come from a hearty breakfast of eggs and hash browns, orange juice and herbal tea served on plates, glasses and coffee cups. The salt and pepper shakers are glass and there is a simple tablecloth on each table. There is a soft morning chatter in the room from my fellow diners and the TV on the wall is mute. And here’s the astounding fact: I’m at a motel in the United States of America.
How rare! My usual experience is a view of the parking lot out my window, Styrofoam cups and plastic plates, salt and pepper in paper wrappers, the TV blaring its ravenous 24-hour version of news designed to kill the human spirit and fill your head with tragedy, mayhem and murder. But here in Medford, Oregon, driving up to see my daughter, husband and the new (well, two year and four months old) love of my life, Zadie, The Inn at the Commons got it right. So simple. Just a little attention to aesthetics and my day is brighter and my spirit warmed. In my love-hate relationship with America, aesthetic murder by cheap, shoddy, fast, ugly everything is at the top of my list. How can we grow sensitive, caring, compassionate and fulfilled citizens when we not only tolerate shabbiness, but consciously cultivate it and surround ourselves with it?
Our dinner stop was at Dunsmuir, a sleepy little town near Mt. Shasta close to where my daughter was married up in the Trinity Alps some 6 years ago. We stumbled into a lovely little place called Café Maddalana and there I had one of the best meals in the past six months. Farro, peas and pea shoot salad, wild mushroom soup, risotto, lovingly prepared and served with care— and though the price was above the roadstop diner, it was reasonable enough, especially for the pleasure it delivered.
This is how we grow a culture. This is how we grow happy people. Simple attention to doing things well, with care, with nuance, with aesthetic subtlety. Leave the TV shouters mute on the wall, close down the Styrofoam factories, silence the devices and talk to the people at the table. Small little acts that build to big changes.
On to Portland, refreshed and rejuvenated by this most uncommon American inn.