Cocoons and Coffee Houses

My last post about containers as a place for processes to occur got me thinking about incubation again, and about eggs and other containers that occur in nature. After the egg hatches, its new container is a nest. Other natural containers include dens, marsupia,* and cocoons. Especially cocoons. They are about more than birth and growth; cocoons are about transformation.

In my cocoons, I don’t do such a literal transformation that my caterpillar self can’t even be recognized in the butterfly that emerges from her cocoon, but there are many types of transformation. In those quiet moments wrapped in the warmth and protection of my cocoon (made from a quilt, afghan, or fluffy blanket), many things happen as a result of just being present in the moment: the blending of ideas, the birth of a vision, the solution to a puzzle, a life-changing insight.

Lovely Beans, a coffee shop just around the corner from our apartment

One of the best discoveries I ever made was that coffee houses are ready-made cocoons. Although there are times when I meet friends for coffee and conversation, there is something transformational about heading to a coffee shop alone, armed with nothing more than a book or two, a notebook and some pens. Even a computer is optional. Cocoons and computers don’t necessarily go together. For me, it is the very act of getting away from the computer that lends itself so well to incubating ideas, transforming lethargy, and gaining a new perspective. The computer, along with all the other things on my to-do list, will be there when I come back.

What do I take to my coffee house cocoon? A very limited task list. I might take one or two projects that have been eluding me. Something that needs a creative breakthrough. A section of a chapter that isn’t quite coming together. A few ideas that need to be brainstormed. A journal. A stack of index cards. Pens in a few different colors.

I’ve never been in a coffee house with bad ambiance or with bad coffee, for that matter. The baristas are almost always good for a short, friendly conversation, but they also know when to let you slip away into your private space. They don’t bother people who are in their cocoons, quietly transforming.

And now the coffee shop becomes, for me, a container of sorts. A cocoon. It holds minimal distractions, but endless potential for discovery. Anyone for a latte?

*marsupium: the pouch where female marsupials (like kangaroos) carry their young. (pl. marsupia)