Saturday, May 29, 2010

Third Place

Remember being a kid? Spending from dawn to dusk on those long summer days exploring the neighborhood. When you learned how to ride a bike that neighborhood doubled in size and so did your exploring options: the railroad trestle, the stepping stones in the woods, the corner store with the best selection of candy to blow your allowance on. These were our first escapes. Our first 'third places.' In the 'special feature' section of the film You've Got Mail, director/ producer Nora Ephron credits the success of places like Starbucks to our inner need for a place that's not our home or work. A third place where we feel comfortable and safe. When I heard that hypothesis, it seemed so obvious that I wondered what took coffee shops so long to arrive in our culture? From the moment we developed a sense of wonder and curiosity, we developed a yearning to find a third place. Not home or school or work or even our best friend's house. As we discover ourselves, our needs change; and our third place grows with us. From a back-yard fort to the corner cafe, our third place defines us -- as we define our third place. How we spend our leisure time also plays a role in our choices. I bike. While this may not seem like a tangible place to find comfort, I chose to ride the same routes because I find comfort in those familiar places. Whether I ride around town early Sunday mornings or head out of town to ride the trails of the Kettle Moraine Forest, I find solace in knowing where I'm headed and where the route or trail will take me. I find the same kind of peace (although without the satisfaction of physical exertion) spending an hour in a coffee house just re-setting my groove. To me, an hour nursing an iced mocha can be the spiritual equivalent of spending a morning in church. I feel better, I focus easier, I work more efficiently, and I can be more patient. That may be the reason that when I head out for a mountain bike ride I quip, "Daddy's riding for a mocha," as I leave the house. It's the best of both worlds. I can't pin-point where my third place is, because I suppose it really depends on the mood I'm in. As I stated earlier; our third place grows with us. Even if its on a daily basis. In this day-and-age our free time is limited. Thankfully our third places are not. Be it in a bustling coffee house down-town or stretched out in an open kayak in the middle of a calm lake, peace can be anywhere you find it. One thing I have learned is that in order for a third place to actually be a place in which we can feel comfortable and safe, it cannot be a place to use as an escape. A true third place isn't a hiding place, it's a discovery place. So in order to be able to really find peace in a place, the first place we need to be able to find peace and feel comfortable is within our own skin. After all, if you're not comfortable there, the only thing you'll be able to find at Starbucks is coffee.