“Modeling is the most effective way to teach. Why don’t you just do what you want, let people learn by your example. Travel, write, just do it.” Mitchell
We knew we were saying goodbye before we had a chance to say hello. Tears running down her cheeks, Kate finished reading the poem and looked up at our new friend and choked, “that was beautiful.” Mitchell smiled his wise smile. A smile that carried volumes of wisdom and experience. No words were needed. We knew we were sitting with greatness. We also knew we just read his eulogy.
Kate and I had met that morning for coffee at one of our new favorite spots. When I mentioned passing a bookshop upstairs we decided to check it out. The moment we walked in we felt at home. Dark shelves lined the walls, overflowing with books, a big leather sofa and library table in the middle and of course there was Mitchell perched in a big wingback chair reading a book. Behind his wire-rimmed glasses, his sharp blue eyes welcomed us with humility and curiosity. Mitchell had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in his presence.
After a brief introduction to the shop, we asked Mitchell to join us for coffee. He agreed to meet us down there after he dug up a copy of his favorite poem that he wanted to share. Over coffee Kate read aloud, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot and as always when something moves her, she cried. Holding his cup of coffee, he quietly watched us and I believe in that moment, deemed us friends.
We knew that our time with Mitchell was going to impact us deeply and we also knew it would be short. What we didn’t know was that his shop was going to be our new home for future book clubs, writing workshops and a place of solace for Kate and myself during a time of transition. It was the place where dreams were supported and launched and wise advice given. Looking back I would say it was the foundation for all the new paths we would choose.
Next month we will be on our way to Scotland to celebrate Kate’s 75th birthday. We will walk the John Muir Trail, a 134-mile pilgrimage across Scotland. I know this would have made Mitchell smile. That huge infectious smile that spans from ear to ear. He would love that on a whim Kate liked my idea and signed up. I know he knows. I know he is smiling.