I was thinking about our daily rituals, the things that keep us grounded, the things we do every day without thinking, the things we do in our own way to our own standard for our own pleasure.
I was awakened early this morning by an ill family member who eventually settled down to rest so I was left awake again at stupid o'clock. I shuffled down stairs and the cats followed me.
I took a detour into the "powder room" to "powder my nose" and one of the languid sisters pulled open the door with her perfect little clawed paw, because, what's privacy to a cat? Right? so she came in and she and I had a little chat, and then I washed my hands, just so you know I'm all about the hygiene, and I fed the cats, and filled their bowl with water, and then I set about to make the coffee which as I've gotten older has taken on a level of complexity that seems self indulgent.
A thought dawned on me out of the blue, that making coffee had turned into a ritual, one I was not consciously aware I was performing.
The fact that I'm the only coffee drinker in the house and I'm willing to perform this multi-step procedure for myself points to a desire to honor myself. Also to caffeinate myself and jump start my sluggish heart, but if it was just about utility, the coffee making event would be less of an event.
First there is the filling of the kettle. I like the old kettle, it makes me happy. I can't say why, I don't know why, but certain objects have a look about them that please us, and the kettle pleases me. Then I grind the lovely fragrant coffee beans in the old red Krupp grinder that had belonged to my oldest brother who lives in Oregon. Every morning as I pour just the right number of shiny black coffee beans into the grinder I think of my brother. I think of the age of the machine, how it still runs so well, the mystery of how time passes, and then, I push the button on the grinder and the morning silence is completely shattered. The cats, every morning, every single morning, hear that sound and jump a mile in the air, then turn to look a me with accusing eyes, offended by the noise, deeply resentful. Every morning I laugh, because, I am simple, and it always strikes me as funny how the cats jump in surprise and then glare at me. At some point you'd think they would be used to the sound but no, and it's always funny to me, you might think at some point I would cease to be amused, but no, so the cats and I are more alike than I may like to think.
By now the happy kettle is starting to make its drum roll almost boiling sound, which I also find to be a lovely thing. I turn off the burner, pour the freshly ground coffee into the glass french press, the one my mom gave me for Christmas, it's a pretty thing, it looks fragile but isn't or I would have broken it by now, and I pour in just enough water to create a slurry and I stir it with a little wooden spoon and I delight each time in that wee little spoon, and then I pour in just the right amount of water, place the cover on the pot and start to prepare the milk, which makes me think of some friends of mine, it's a long story, but I'm thinking of some dear people while I warm the milk, first I shake the milk, and I use whole milk now, which seems like an extravagance but I like it better so I use whole milk, because liking it more is a good enough reason, which in the past it would not have been but now it is. I put the milk in the old Pyrex measuring cup nuke for just the right amount of time to achieve the appropriate temperature.
I go to the cupboard to select the morning's mug. Will I choose the brown flowered mug the kids gave me for Christmas a few years ago? The green one that has the perfect handle? The large white one with the oak leaves, 'made in England' printed on the bottom that used to belong to an old fellow a neighbor of my friend Ruth who passed away two years ago, she was such a sweet soul, bless her heart?
By the time the milk is warm and the morning mug selected, the coffee is brewed and I push down the plunger on the french press. I still think pushing the plunger is cool. It pushes down with a little resistance as the coiled spring exerts just the right amount of pressure and the grinds are trapped below.What a clever invention.
I pour the coffee, I watch it pour, I pour it from a certain height because the sight of it and the sound of it please me, and then I pour in the warm milk in just such a way, I achieve the right shade of brown, not too light not too dark, then I take the foam (I shook up the milk first, so foam, yes, foam) and place that on top, which always makes me think of my younger days and working in the cafe, and I'm good with the foam and I take care to place it just so. It's perfect.
I always take the first sip while walking from the kitchen to the dining room. One might think the proper thing to do would be to wait, I mean, this is a ritual practice and rituals are about discipline and solemnity, but the process was unconsciously designed to honor myself, and I am an impatient person. I don't want to wait for that first sip of coffee, so I don't wait, I've been waiting long enough.
Most mornings everything comes together just right and the first sip as I cross the threshold from kitchen to dining-room is an affirmation and stands above the day. A small act to nurture myself, an affirmation to honor myself in a day that will be spent in service to others.