Microclimates Part I

Think Starbucks costs too much? How about $350/lb for Panamanian coffee beans. La Esmerelda Geisha sold for that at auction in 2013. Overpriced? Sure. It's primarily a trophy bean for some high end coffee shop.

In spite of the hype, it is an extraordinary and unique bean. And it's excellence is limited to the side of the mountain it resides on. In fact, the first Geisha variety price explosion came when a farmer took mediocre plants and moved them five hundred feet up the mountain. The results? One of the world's most sought after coffees.

But this isn't about coffee.

In the coffee world, a slight shift is a big deal. Coffee grows in what are called microclimates. Specific soil ph, altitude (oxygen levels, atmospheric pressure) sunlight, shading, wind speed, humidity, temperature  all go into shaping the flavor of the oils in the beans that ultimately get poured into your cup. Change the variables slightly and you change the coffee–sometimes drastically.

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We sometimes give Courtney's grandma Wilma flack when she talks about how they say things "down south." Because when she says "down south" what she really means is Syracuse, which is less than an hour away from Goshen. But as much as we harass her, it's really not all that ridiculous of an idea. I grew up in Oregon, one of the most progressive states in the nation, but lived in a conservative farming community and went to a conservative Christian school all my life. Ironically, I now find myself in the opposite position as downtown Goshen is a progressive island on a sea of conservatism.

new book claims that rather than having 50 political states, the U.S. has 11 countries that represent varying approaches to life, faith, and politics. According to that map, Indiana is chopped into pieces. Wilma might not be wrong about those "down south" differences after all.

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Only once have I attended a primarily black church. It was as black as a Mennonite church is white. As a musician with an affinity for improvised blues and soul music, I was in love. Growing up, playing the drums in church with that sort of spunk was borderline sinful. Heck, having drums was borderline sinful. The pace of the sermon, the order of service, the relevant topics and news stories of the day, the way the congregation participated–all drastically different. And it felt good to have my cultural priorities dethroned.

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A few months ago, as Courtney and I were trying to finalize a decision, (which we had talked about numerous times) I asked her how sure she was about making the move. "Seventy five percent," she said, "But the other twenty five is only because I know you aren't sure." It threw me off. I had no idea she was so convinced. After months of asking her what she thought, I still hadn't figured it out.

Even the person right next to us–an amalgamation of nostalgia, pain, hope and failure–is a microclimate waiting to be discovered.