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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

erm...

I'm having one of those painfully uninspired days. Sorry!

Eat, sleep, drink coffee.
-michael

Thursday, October 27, 2011

the music makers

The tumult is self-sustained.

I got home from a hectic day today. Too many obligations, too many things to do, too many people to worry about, too much to think about. Every day has seemed like this for the last few weeks. Too much is going wrong, too much is going mad, too much is just going.

But the tumult is self-sustained.

I took my brother to football practice about a half hour ago. On my way from his school to the gas station, I put in my iPod headphones and clicked on a song at random. It was three minutes and thirty-five straight seconds of pure joy, about forgetting what's happening, what others think, even of thinking what you think. Just about dancing, singing, being a music maker. The song is "Put Your Records On" by Corrine Bailey Rae, and at that moment, singing and dancing and putting my records on was all I wanted to do.

So, needless to say, I sang and danced to it on repeat in my car, in front of strangers at the gas station, on the way home. I giggled uncontrollably. I whipped my hair back and forth. I didn't think about anything. I just hung out in the joyous spirit of a music maker. It was only about fifteen minutes of my life, but what a perfect fifteen it was.

And so I realized: the tumult is self-sustained.

I have a drama teacher and director who always tells us: "The only thing in life you don't get to choose is being born and dying." While it's kind of a blanket statement, on the whole, he is right. We don't get thrust into many situations we can't change, and, even in those where we are somewhat powerless, walking away is always an option.

So I stuck myself in this mess? In all of these little, tiny messes that, like so many dots, make one damn ugly Picasso face of anxiety? Mhm, how unfortunate. And how wonderful. You see, if the tumult is something we build, something we place ourselves into, something we continue to make, then it is also something that we can change. Even if we don't change the situation, how we perceive it changes it intrinsically. Life, after all, has little to do with facts, but quite a lot to do with perception of what little is there.

The tumult is self-sustained.

The liberation is self-realized.

The laughter, however, is uncontrollable.

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Terebithia

I rediscovered one of my favorite books from childhood this week, Coffee Lovers. It is the classic Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. If you haven't read it, you aren't too old to. I promise.

It's about a boy from a poor family in a rural area who, on the outside, seems like all of the other fifth graders. Inside, he's dying for the world to know how much he loves to draw and create, dying for his father to accept his dream of being an artist, dying for something to make. And it is about a girl, an eccentric girl in the rural neighborhood, whose parents are rich, ex-hippie authors without a television set. And despite the fact that circumstances are the greatest distance between any two people, they become best friends.

Together, they create a magical kingdom only they know about. They call it Terabithia and it is there, in that world of their minds made almost-real in the nearby forest, that they learn the greatest lesson life has to offer: the strength to insist upon yourself.

I've always loved this book, because this was me as a child. I spent every afternoon in the forest talking with wizards, fighting dragons, plotting with elves, chanting in funky gibberish to ward off the evil spirits. It may sound funny now, but it was true back then. I fought the same war that Jess and Leslie fight in Terabithia, that very finite, eternal war of childhood to find oneself. Among the wood nymphs and the pixies, I worked little by little until, finally, I could emerge from the forests of my backyard into the life I'd been neglecting in favor of my imagination.

You see, there's a new kind of magic you learn about once you finally leave the woodland wonders of childhood behind. That is the magic of living well in a de-mystified time and place. It is the magic of passion, of art, of loving, not just someone or something specifically, but throwing wide your arms and letting your soul feast itself upon everything, letting yourself be overtaken by your own version of the wide world, not forgetting that you are entitled to your own smiles, if nothing else. It is the magic of singing badly and loudly in public, of remembering to talk to strangers, of shining because you were naturally endowed with light, and what a waste it would be to forget that.

One of my best friends reminds me of this kind of living all of the time. She is strong and wise beyond her years. She is comforting and confusing, suprising and dependable, always ready to listen to a new idea and give you her honest opinion. It is rare that people drop into life ready, each day, to remind you that there is magic still to be had. But she is one of them. And for that, I thank her.

There are days when Terabithia seems so far off. Life has that funny habit of catching up with you at all the wrong times, but we forget that Terabithia is not in the forest across the neighborhood creek or in our backyards. No, my friends. Terabithia remains, as it always has been, in our minds. We are safe and powerful, we are young and lovely - always. What a celebration of life that is.

I suppose refinding Bridge to Terabithia served to remind me that life, no matter how busy it gets, is a waste if we look around and realize we have forgotten to actually live it. So bring the mystical back to the everyday; it's not as far off as you think.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

sunday sip: over the rainbow

It's late and I find myself listening to the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It's a platinum hit played with only a ukelele and his incredible voice. And it's all about dreams.

I don't know if you were also a Wizard of Oz kid when you were younger, but, if you were, you probably remember the sepia scene where Judy Garland, on her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's chicken farm, imagines a world where "troubles melt like lemon drops high above the chimney tops."

Think back to the end of Wizard of Oz. It was all a dream. Dorothy's real "somewhere over the rainbow" world was always right back on that chicken farm, which did not need to be a sepia existence. She just had to learn to actually dream the right way: for an everyday kind of perfect.

Keep dreaming, Coffee Lovers.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thursday, October 13, 2011

hide-and-seek

I wonder if anyone else has these moments. Coffee cup in hand, October sunshine spilling through the windows, soft folk music somewhere in the background, hair at fourteen wild angles, still wearing the clothes from the day before. Sometimes, it's little things.

I am not afraid of being melancholy, being sad, just feeling okay. Maybe, a long time ago, I was, but I'm not anymore, because I've learned something. Joy is not a constant state of being. Joy is a game. It appears, it disappeares. There is a brilliant line in Tenessee Williams' heartbreaking one act The Glass Menagerie. It opens the show, in fact:

"Yes, I have tricks up my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."

Joy is like that. It really, truly exists, but it does not run around our cities or through our homes with its face laid bare for all to see at any given moment. It hides; it tricks. Think of it like a child, giggling in the corner of the closet, because they know that big brother is so close to winning Hide-and-Seek.

So today I found joy. I'm taking a sick-day off school. I woke up late, covered in cold sweat and coughing. I didn't sleep well. I don't feel any better. But, despite or maybe because of all that, I was sitting on my couch by the window, grinning like an idiot, and wondered if the Coffee Lovers have ever felt this way. There is no explanation. It is the sunshine that breaks past the clouds, when, maybe, you didn't even know there were clouds to break past. It is something that was hiding in plain sight, just waiting to be stumbled upon.

It isn't something we seek. We chase happiness, and that always gets away from us. Joy is just something we wait for, we find by accident, we giggle, run, laugh, and whoop with. And then, in the way of all children, we let it go, knowing that nothing is permanent, happy that everything - everything! - comes back to us in the end.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011

sunday sip: hopeful and kind

Each generation of Americans has had a poet that has held the position as the nation's keeper of conscience. In my opinion, that poet for current America is Maya Angelou. Two of her best known poems are "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "On The Pulse of Morning." The latter was composed and presented for the inaugural ceremony of Bill Clinton. It ends with the words:

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

All day today, this poem has been on my mind. I don't even like it that much! But her message, her goal is so simple, so beautiful. She doesn't speak of revolution, spiritual transcendence, liberation. She speaks of today, this pulse of morning, of being hopeful and kind. Nothing more. Certainly, nothing less.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

regardless of the mess called living

"If you want to be happy, be."
               -Leo Tolstoy

The first time I read this quote, I laughed uncontrollably. I do believe I might even have cried a little bit. It was an inappropriately mirthful moment, and I was incredibly glad I was home alone at the time.

But why? It actually took me a while to think through the odd response to what would be, on any other day, just another quote. But when I really sat down and thought through my awkward fit of laugher, I realized that I was amused because a part of my mind immediately recognized that this is what I really have to master in my own life. It is such a simple idea. It is such a terrifying idea.

Are we really so supremely in control that we can decide, despite circumstances, to simply be happy? My immediate inclination is to say no. Absolutely not! Human beings are reactionary. Aren't we?

I thought about this quote as I drove home in the rain tonight. I was heading back from a visit with one of the most resilient, incredible people I know. I've been friend with her since we were about eight years old. Back then, of course, life involved play sets, recess, jumping, whooping, laughing at nothing. As the years have gone on, things have gotten harder, but especially for her.

I spend so much time marveling at your strength, Shreya. So few of us could face everyday unhealthy, overly stressed, under-appreciated and still have the strength to smile, to listen, to care. Your gift for truly looking at others and seeing them, not the version of themselves they want you to see, but the one that's actually there, is beautiful and potent beyond anything your teachers could give you. That you are still happy in the midst of constant struggle reminds me, everyday, what I should aspire toward.

I complain too often. It is probably one of the things about myself that I notice the least and detest the most. My life is, to be frank, just peachy. What do I have to complain over? To gripe and bitch and worry about? The answer to that question: pretty much nothing. But I do. And yet, I see these incredible people around me, Shreya and others, who face life head-on each day and decide - actually decide! - that happy is what they want to be, therefore what they are going to be.

Wow.

When asked who inspires me, I often answer Tenzin Gyatso, Allen Ginsberg, Harvey Milk, or Alice Walker. Yes, these people are inspirations. Yes, they are teachers. Yes, their lessons should be treasured, examined, embraced.

But there is a different kind of hero. There are heroes that exist every day, everywhere. They are men and women, boys and girls, kids and adults that decide, regardless of the mess called living, that they are going to smile & breathe, and - even - be there for the rest of us, who haven't figured it out yet.

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

Monday, October 3, 2011

sorry.

Happy Monday, Coffee Lovers. Sorry for the lack of a Sunday Sip; I was away from my computer all of yesterday. Have a great week!

Until Thursday:

Laugh, love, drink coffee.
-michael