A good cup of coffee.

Coffee, to me, is more than coffee. It’s one of life’s indispensable pleasures. I love the aroma, the taste, the buzz of the caffeine, but most of all I love the way it marks the moment and creates a small oasis in the day. A time to catch my breath – and catch up on email or the NYT.

Often it’s associated with good company, good conversation and inspiring ideas. And then there’s the setting: usually the quirky, bohemian ambience of a familiar little café filled with people reading, drinking, talking, immersed in their wifi worlds. There’s art on the wall. Music in the air. And a clutter of bulletin boards and posters announcing services of all kinds, upcoming concerts, new babies, lost pets, the local news. Life. We can learn a lot about community — better yet, we can participate in it — by frequenting these small, lively “third places.”

One of the ways I immerse myself in an unfamiliar community is to get up early and go in search of coffee. In this age of global homogenization, the coffee house is still defiantly individual and local and delightful. I agree that social media is a powerful window into community, but a Twitter feed will never substitute for the human touch.

Home and family.

Getting up early, going out to my back yard and picking an orange off the tree for breakfast.

When I think of home, I think of my garden, my husband, my cat and dog.

Standing on the balcony of my house, I can just see the Santa Monica Pier with its ferris wheel – the size of a Cheerio.

Having a granddaughter who makes me see everything all over again – as if for the first time.

Living with our cat Lincoln and our dog Chloe, who happen to be the same color and love each other like brother and sister.

Having an ex-fighter pilot, Harvard Business School grad, retired high tech company CFO for a husband – because he knows how to calm me down, challenge my thinking while encouraging me to take risks. (Heli skiing in New Zealand, being one.)

Having had the incredible good fortune to grow up on one of the country’s great streets – Prospect Boulevard in Pasadena – with its architectural diversity, its magnificent camphor trees and its connection to a wonderful town. It’s had a profound influence on my thinking about the value and meaning of community. Of course, I had no idea, while growing up, that it was anything special. It was just home. And I want everyone to have this strong sense of place growing up.

Realizing that home resides in the people you love. That it’s not a place, it’s an idea.

Favorite books.

These I recommend:
House as a Mirror of Self by Clare Cooper Marcus
A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
The Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz
Thoughtless Acts by Jane Suri

Biking.

Another way I get to know a place, especially if it’s a city, is by jumping on a bike and pedaling around town. It’s like walking but quicker. I can cover more territory. Often, when I visit a city for work, I rent a bike and take some time, usually early in the morning, to ride around the neighborhoods. I’ve done this with friends of mine right here in LA. And even though I’ve lived here for decades, I’ve found that there are interesting parts of the city – cities within the city – that are invisible to the rest of the world cruising by in cars. As someone once said, if you’re looking at the world from inside a car, it’s still television. Fringe benefit: I burn some calories.

My electric Mini Cooper.

Not long ago, I entered a contest hoping to be among those selected to field test the new electric Mini Cooper – or Mini E, as it’s known. And I won! This entitled me to drive one of the new Mini E test cars, take scrupulous notes – and pay $923 a month for the privilege. (Must be their way of making sure we were really serious about participating.)

What I didn’t expect was how the Mini E Facebook page would introduce me to a whole new community of people – diverse in every way but united in their love of the Mini and their unflagging pioneering spirit. We all share the same feeling that we’re part of something useful and even important. And though we have our occasional malfunctions and minor setbacks, we realize it’s part of the process. As one driver commented, after a recent breakdown, “Gratification deferred. Pioneer spirit unscathed.” Indeed. It seems to me we could use a little more of this positive, resilient, forgiving, can-do spirit in all aspects of our lives.