You wouldn’t think I’d be such a whinge-queen on a cold, drizzly day in Melbourne, being a veteran of Minnesota winters. But the symptoms of an ash-colored sky and frigid rain come right through the panes of our poorly insulated windows and I shiver with discontent, distracted from inspiration of any form. So, I search desperately for little gift in the moment, as I strive to do each day. Surprisingly, today’s motivation comes out of a whole other complaint, which has nothing to do with this grey day.
These doggone coffee stains on my teeth.
“Guess that means you’ll have to stop drinking coffee,” says Brian, a non-coffee drinker himself. He barely finishes his sentence before I butt in,
“Well, that’s not going to happen.”
Perish the thought—I love coffee. I mean, love, worship, adore, consume it. And I’m not talking about a fancy Frappuccino or even one of those silky lattes Melbourne does so well. What I mean is, give it to me straight and black. No milk, no sugar. Just pure bean, in a big, round, full mug. (Emphasis on “full”—we need to keep it that way.) Why mess around with what’s already heaven? For me, coffee is no longer about the wakening effect that got me started on the cup in the first place. No, my long-term addiction has reduced the caffeine rush to that of a warm shower, to wake up. Ever so gently. Two and a half cups in one morning is now about taste. The coffee bean, to me, does what a malbec grape does to the red wine, and I am thankful for it: the distinct, earthly flavour organically coats me in calm.
But don’t get me wrong. I am awakened.
One of the things I love most about coffee is that it goes hand in hand with creativity. Let’s face it, many famous artists were connoisseurs of coffee. Take composer Johann Sebastian Bach, for example. He wrote a cantata about his love of coffee entitled The Coffee Cantata. The librettist for the piece, Christian Friedrich Henrici, wrote lyrics like (translated): If I can’t drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment, I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.
My sentiments exactly, brother.
I think back to how coffee played a recurring role during my pursuit of a postgraduate degree in creative writing. Arriving to a night class after eight hours writing retail advertising meant the embrace of a tall, travel mug of coffee, to refresh my brain so that I could participate in a discussion about really good poetry. I remember consciously appreciating how that little perk-up actually opened an extra door in my mind, enabling me to truly see poetry beyond the metaphors.
I think back to my fourth ever night in Athens, Greece. I spent the evening sitting solo in an empty taverna, downing Greek coffees to the succulent sounds of a two-man mandolin band and writing furiously in my journal—in the moment, and about that moment. To this day, I’ll never forget how blessed I felt.
I think back to how my good friend Scott and I used to commit ourselves to three hours at a different coffee shop every Sunday, to “create” for the love of it. He was designing a new card game for kids and I was perfecting, you guessed it, my manuscript.
Last but not least, coffee is associated with love, which is a constant source of inspiration for me—and probably just about everyone. Take my mom, for example. Someone who’s always supported my lengthy stints in foreign countries “to write,” and my decision to write for the love of it, rather than for a paycheck. Someone who raised four kids, went back to school, achieved a master’s degree and a fulfilling career of giving, and is now retiring to do artful things, herself. Growing up, her own mother used to gather her and her four brothers and sisters around the dinner table to drink coffee and talk into the wee hours. Today, Mom, my siblings and I share this same, sweet memory-in-the-making every time I visit.
So you see, a lot of life can fill a cup.
And besides, I can always go to the dentist.