Seattle, Washington, United States
For those who love coffee, poetry, art, or stories - stay. Have a cup with us.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

sunday sip: tumult to peace

Watching the recent American debt crisis, I was reminded of how tumultuous our lives really are. There are waves of discord everywhere. Today, amidst feelings of anxiety and worry, I sat down with a candle breathing slowly and measuredly in and out. Om. Sa. And in doing so, I felt all of that tumult melt away, and that steady, comforting darkness within overtook everything. So I smiled and went about my day, sense of joy intact.
"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without."
--the Buddha

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thursday, July 28, 2011

the risk of burned lips

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."-Henry David Thoreau

The above is one of the best known and respected quotes in all of English literature. It's one I've had repeated to me often.

As I sat down to think about today's post, several different memories were swirling around in my head. Coffee in hand, I examined the sordid thoughts and found that Thoreau's quote was, inexplicably, coupling with a gift from my father, and there was absolutely no connection. Or, at least, there was no immediately obvious connection. As I examined further, however, it all seemed to click.

About six months ago I'd gone to my bedroom to read for several hours and, on my bed, I found a piece of printer paper with three typed paragraphs. It bore no heading nor signature at the bottom. I read it through twice, smiling wider and wider as the sentiments rushed by. It was so wonderfully accurate. It read:
There is a comfort my son finds in coffee. I speak not of the drink, though he revels in the dark-earthy liquors, oils and multi-faceted flavors as ambrosia its very self. No, he finds comfort in the event or the spirit coffee embodies. He identifies with the inspiring caffeine and community of creativity found in coffee. History and gold-rich tradition lie betwixt cup and lip and when centered in that ancient palace of academia called the cafe...it beckons to his soul --

My son possesses many talents, but he is first, foremost and forever an artist. To sit in the coffee shop scribbling on a project is to join the dance; to participate in the things one can know, create and most of all - write. This dance of creativity and talent, where excellence is a requirement, would reside in this place: the distant ech of great minds who distinguished themselves into history.

He would ponder how many epic poems and great works of fiction were fueled by just such a drink and in such a place, with background music and the yearn-to-hear conversations just out of reach. Dark wood furnishings and crackling fire places, where people huddle together in the dry warmth, safety in numbers, helping one another dispel the gray gloom of winter. In this season doors stay shut and conversations progress in the muted reserve one might find in libraries. But he will not limit his dance to the drizzling cold of just one season. Spring time courtyards, blossoms, birds and tiny round bistro tables are equally attractive to him. My son would drink his spring tonic and allow the renaissance to flow through and around him as he wrote. Longing for Paris and times when skilled poets were famous and the world blessed brilliance far more than sports, or even physical beauty.

There is a comfort my son finds in coffee.

At the same time, I was thinking of a poem by Alice Walker. It is a long and beautiful work, part manifesto, part apology, part forgiveness. A section of it reads:

No regrets.
No blame.
The taste
of figs
cherries
peaches
mangoes
orange peel
scent

with blind
luck
& many
tribulations
we made it
to
this
world!

Rise! Rising
as Maya
reminds us
is our
way
with
devestation.
There is
no
god
but
love
&
so
rising is
inherent
in
our
heartbeat
as we
move
carried or
knocked
about
by life.

This we know:
We were
not meant
to suffer
so much
& to learn
nothing.

Here, again, the connection is difficult to see, but it is there. Out of these three works I believe a theme emerges, though they all approach it in different ways. We are living a life, a short one, that encapsulates the broadest spectrum of feeling. We are immersed, daily, in a love few, if any, can understand. It is that universal SOMETHING which makes all of this possible. We can sit in cafes and write, we can run about mountains and forests searching for ourselves, we can rise to see our wildest dreams through to completion, even in the ruin of ourselves. This is living deliberately.

I write this today because I was thinking this week about why I write this blog. I do not write it because I hope it will be famous or successful. I do not write it in anticipation of the day I can advertise on it and get paid. None of those things matter. I write because I see something in life - in Henry David Thoreau, in my father, in Alice Walker - maybe even in myself and in all of you, that is beautiful and worth noting. It is strong and aromatic. It can be bitter; it can be sweet. It is, in essence, coffee, and it is worth the risk of burned lips.

We were not mean to suffer so much & to learn nothing.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Sunday, July 24, 2011

sunday sip: morning coffee & black magic

My apologies for missing the Thursday post for this week, Coffee Lovers.

But as to this week's Sunday Sip I wanted to tell a short, funny story. I was in Barnes & Noble rather early this morning (coffee mug in hand) to buy a book for a friend. She had requested something from the New Age section as somewhat of a joke. She and I spent time together in a play all about voodoo, so I thought that would make a funny book selection. It wasn't what I ended up buying her, but as I was searching for a book on the history of Haitian Voodoo, a sweet-looking elderly woman came bustling in to the aisle and pulled several grimoires off the shelves. I kindly asked her if she'd seen anything on my subject of choice on her side of the shelf.

Suffice it to say, not only hadn't she, but she thought it appropriate to subject me to a tongue lashing on the dangers of voodoo and her preference for the "better magickal arts." I suppressed the urge to shrug and respond with: "Well I do recycle quite often..." Why tell you this story? I think it's unfair that I can't even look for a historical book on a historical subject for a friend without judement on my "preferred type of magick."

So sweet, elderly, early-bird Wiccan-book enthusiast: please do yourself a favor and relax. I'll make the same effort, I promise. No black magic intended.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Monday, July 18, 2011

poetry monday: I Meant To Do My Work Today...

When I was much younger, I used to read and reread this poem from the large, yellowed book of poems that belonged to my mother when she was a young girl. I woke up with it in my head, and it fits my mood perfectly this fine Monday.


I Meant To Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?

--Richard LeGallienne


Yours, in words and espresso.
-michael

Sunday, July 17, 2011

sunday sip: surprise

Sometimes I feel like it's healthy to sit back and have a dose of awe with my morning coffee. Life and the world are so beautiful, so majestic, so surprising. The colors that appear because of sunshine, rocks, and shadows are astounding and vivid - and completely unexpcted.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thank you Shreya Tewari for your photo
"Sunset at the Grand Canyon"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Harry Gave Me

Tomorrow is a significant day for the world. It marks, though not the end, the great diminishing of one of the world's favorite stories, the most read novel of all time: Harry Potter.

Harry Potter came into my life at the age of six. I still remember the day that my cousin, twelve at the time, told me I should give the book a go. She showed me the first chapter, and that very next day I went out and bought my first Harry Potter book.

Over the next ten years I would come to read every single Harry Potter book more than once (on one notable occasion I reread all 800+ pages of Order of the Phoenix in less than five hours), see every movie, hoard every fact, and love every single page.

I read a great deal. I've read "great books" and the profound works of the philosophers and satarists. I've read the epic poems and the short stories that stand out in the world's conscience. But I cannot ignore the fact that no other book has touched me like Harry Potter did. J.K. Rowling wrote a profound story of love, magic, redemption, life, death, fear, sadness, joy... What began as a simple children's story ended as a great and beautiful piece of literature. Her characters are complex, her plot is titanic in its vision, her spirit is warm and her world is an immersive experience. I do not care if I sound like a child when I say this. It is the simple truth.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on Harry Potter because those seven books did something for a small, six year old boy that nothing else could do: they gave him some magic to believe in. When I was younger, I wanted so desperately to be anything other than what I was, and, in Rowling's books, I found that ability. I've explored Hogwarts more times than I can count, felt the soaring victory of a Quidditch match well done, even the fear of facing down Lord Voldemort (and living to tell the tale). I made potions (Felix Felicis, the Draught of Living Death, Amortentia...), cast charms (Accio! Lumos! Wingardium Leviosa!), even performed delicate transfigurations and conjurations (Avis! Incendio! Tea-kettle-to-a-tortoise...).

So thank you, J.K. Rowling for making the painful process of growing up magical for so many children (and just as many adults) around the world. We are forever in your debt.

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus!

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Monday, July 11, 2011

poetry monday: Haiku-Errors

I appreciate both the message and form of this poem. I do believe I have become quite the Han Min Ohn fan tonight.


Haiku-Errors

It is easier to see errors
than to realize the underlying causes
That lead to those errors.

--Han Min Ohn



Yours, in words and espresso.
-michael

Sunday, July 10, 2011

sunday sip: Metamorphosis

I wanted to share a quote with you this Sunday, Coffee Lovers. It is from a novel by my favorite author, Salman Rushdie. In his novel, Shalimar the Clown, he writes:

A rope could become air. A boy could become a bird. Metamorphosis was the secret heart of life.


I think this brilliant and beautiful idea speaks volumes about the kind of world that Salman Rushdie, a man who has seen much of his adult life go up in smoke and has dared to live, breathe and write another day, believes in. It is a world that will change, but not end. A man that will be shaken, but will not stop. A state of existence where all things do what they were designed to do: adapt.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Alexithymia

I was alerted recently to a rare psychological condition, Coffee Lovers. It is called Alexithymia. It is the inability to express how one is feeling in words. Fascinating.

Let me start by pointing out the obvious: I do not have Alexithymia. I express my emotions a thousand ways to Sunday. In fact, I've recently taken to answering the question "How are you?" in highly descriptive and specific similes. For instance: "Like the color of sunshine as it triumphantly crests the blue, ice-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevadas."

I was introduced to the phenomenon because a friend of mine is rather sure he has Alexithymia. It made me wonder: How hard it would be to be isolated in my own emotions. I can't imagine it. I feel for him deeply, because this particular inability is not one I would wish upon myself or any single person. To feel and not know what you are feeling sounds rather terrifying.

It made me think, also, of the greater issue of emotional communication. Some of us (myself, for instance) are extremely emotionally open. We wear our hearts smeared on our sleeves, faces, in our hair, on our feet - we can't escape from what we are feeling and neither can the people we are with.

It is so necessary, somewhat like breathing, to be able to look at someone and say the words Happy or Sad, Alegre or Triste, Heureuse or Triste - to me, it feels utterly human. And so learning about Alexithymia fascinated me. It made me marvel at communication.

And then I realized something else. Commuincation is nothing. A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. A thorn, too, would still prick. So to my friend with this rare condition: do not despair. Emotions are the great fire of man. The words that I put so much stock in are the illusion. The emotions are the reality. And it is possible that in my pretty similes and easy words, I have lost the rawness of feeling.

Therefore, I am making a decision to live and feel deliberately. I cannot hope to feel outside of language, because I was not given that unique curse and gift. But I can feel above and beyond language. Joy that three letters cannot describe. Sorrow, too, that six do not do justice.

We are only as great as what we can feel.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Monday, July 4, 2011

poetry monday: I Hear America Singing

I knew exactly what poem I would have for this Monday and holiday. Really, it's the only one that fits.


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
       and strong.
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
       work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-
        hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
        as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning,
        or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
        or of the girl sewing and washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day - at night the party of young
        fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

--Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Happy Fourth of July!

Yours, in words and espresso.
-michael

Sunday, July 3, 2011

sunday sip: family

They are always around us, but sometimes we forget to look around and notice their presence, their support, their sympathetic ear and their unique ability to understand all that we are and do. Our families are with us whether we succeed or we fail. Our friends may change like the wind, but our families are constant and forever.

Thank you to mine.

Join me for a cup.
-michael