The Tao of Sheila
Veggies: Lots of great salads recently, thanks to lettuce grown by friends and local farmers
Wine: Nursing the last few sips of Kung Fu Girl riesling ... so sad to see that bottle end
In May, DP (my husband) and I spent five days in New York state. If you enjoy food, wine and nature--in any order --you must get to Ithaca and the Finger Lakes for your next vacation. Unless your next vacation is in January. Then, okay, maybe wait until spring.
We headed home with 14 bottles of wine, possibly one or two extra pounds (despite lots of walking and hiking), a desire to continue our self-imposed technology black-out--which, as you might guess, didn't last too long--and the memory of a delicious intersection of food, kindness and Sheila.
Sheila served our last--and best--meal in New York. If The Stonecat Cafe were 7 hours closer to us, we'd be there every week... for the food as much as the pleasure of being in Sheila's presence. Stonecat doesn't demand "proper attire," but it's the kind of place that makes you want to look your best, out of respect for the food. So, when DP and I wandered in, with nearly two days of wine-tasting and camping grime not-so-successfully covered by baseball hats, we felt embarrassed as we took our seats among the more recently showered guests.
That embarrassment melted into euphoria over the course of our two-hour meal, thanks to Sheila. From the moment she greeted us with a genuine, radiant smile and a snark-free compliment on my UC Bearcats hat, we knew we were in good company. No doubt she was a skilled server, but her true skill--from my perspective--was her ability to be present.
From laughing with us about the younger restaurant staff's adventures in cold-water surfing on Seneca Lake ("Alcohol is their wetsuit," she explained) to gently brushing off a tiny spider that had landed on a diner's forehead as she was placing her order, Sheila gave every moment her complete attention. When she spoke with us, we knew she was really with us. And as she moved from table to table to kitchen and back, she effortlessly maintained a natural smile (as seen in the picture above). At the end of the night, when we thanked Sheila for sharing her joyful personality with us, she told us that she's always been a happy person. We weren't at all surprised.
From my practice and study of yoga, I know that contentment can be found through the challenging work of living in the present, no matter what that moment entails. Meeting Sheila was a beautiful, powerful reminder of that possibility, and, more than a month later, she has continued to inspire me. The next time we eat at Stonecat (oh yes, there will be a next time), I hope to experience the tao of Sheila once again.