Ode to a Cup o' Joe
October 1, 2005
Oh, the steaming mug of coffee. Just the physical properties are worthy of praise: My cupped hands absorbing its radiant heat, my mouth gratefully anticipating a sharp plug of roasted life force, my whole body tingling, ready for one of the Last Great Indulgences left to adulthood.
Photo by Cabin Life, Cabin Living
During the work week, I’m forced to endure sludge from the office pot, or greedily sip a lukewarm substance while weaving through morning traffic. On these work days, coffee is no more than a caffeine delivery system.
Coffee at the cabin, however, is an act of love. The measurement by which my weekends are spent. A ritual as elaborate and essential as a Japanese tea ceremony.
First, the ritual dictates someone else has to get out of bed to make it. Lucky for me, that somebody requires no prodding, and seemingly appreciates the measuring, grinding and filling as much as I appreciate the aromatic wafts luring me forward into the day. He waits patiently for me to stagger to the small window table overlooking the bird feeder, and he speaks softly asking if I’d like a ceramic mug. If that’s not love, what is?
My second cup is carried with me as I walk about and contemplate the day. Like royalty surveying the grounds, my coffee cup my staff, I review the bird feeders, the arrangement of leaves in the trees, the placement of deck furniture, and the proportion of clouds to sky. It is, indeed, important to establish that all is well with the world. While still in pajamas. Sometimes while wearing rubber boots and a raincoat.
And then, fortified and electrified by caffeine, I am ready to face down the gutters, or assume authority over the wasps’ nest. These tasks require concentration, certainly accentuated by the focused infusion of caffeine. They require commitment, which I summon up on my morning walkabout. They require contemplation, bringing me full circle back to the table by the bird feeder.
Cabin chores, ceaseless as they are, must be evaluated for their leisurely properties. For example, while the wasps’ nest is certainly a potential nuisance, it also might be Too Big of a Job. One best executed in November, when the wasps are sleepy. Today, on the other hand, would probably be best spent sorting through that dangerous pile of magazines near the fireplace. A cup of coffee clarifies so many difficult decision-making processes. Don’t approach a chore without one.
I’ve also come to appreciate the diplomatic properties of coffee, which seem to be magnified by the cabin environment. Invite that neighbor over for a cup of coffee. Sit him down, load him up (sweeten it with a muffin) and comment on what an interesting color he’s chosen for his boathouse. It’s hard to get too worked up about anything when you’re sharing coffee on a cool autumn day.
Coffee also braces you for the return trip to reality. Monday morning looms, as does the last day of vacation. Atmospheric re-entry can be bumpy. At times like these, coffee can be your best friend. Either an emotionally soothing companion on the ride home, or a cheerleading jolt of energy needed to leap from here to there.
Poet Ogden Nash claimed that “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” A truffle is lovely with coffee, and I’m all for a shot of fun in my cup. But I do think Nash missed hitting on the merits of this more subtle substance. A hot cup of joe is a wonderful thing.
Jana Voelke Studelska consumed an entire pot of organically grown French roast while writing this essay. She believes that while cabin maintenance suffers under her cabin coffee rules, she’s a much better person for it.
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