"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:
we made it
This we know:
& to learn
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.