29 September 2015

What Coffee Means to Me

The first piece of writing I had published was an Ode to Nescafe inspired by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and the hours I spent sipping Nescafe from demitasse cups late at night with my friends in Santiago.

I admit my obsession and I aim to exceed at it, which has been greatly aided by friends both online and off. It's a source of humor, comfort and absurdity and the central focus of my book series, Immortal Coffee.

Coffee is more than a drink to me.

The moment of the day that lasts, coffee represents everything quiet and peaceful. Drinking it, I am soothed by the memories of people who have mattered to me. All our laughter is felt as present in that moment.

My obsession with coffee begin very early on.

My mother married a tyrant when I was about four years old. Also a coffee drinker. He wanted to rear his step-children like he trained his dogs. But, fear and food do not inspire canine-style loyalty in small human children. As his bitterness about that grew, I started running away. Over and over.

To me, his coffee was a sort of symbol of power and self-determination. He could have it. I could not touch it. I wanted it.

At thirteen, I started buying and drinking coffee from the supermarket by my high school on the Oregon coast. Empowering. It tasted like freedom. I still associate the salty sea air, warm coffee and the sound of rain with hope.

I started university young and had my son. He called his mother's coffee, chompy, and seemed to understand its primary role in my life almost at birth. I treasure a video of him at two years old stealing my coffee, running around the full length of my aunt's house and giggling like a maniac as I chased him. When his father died in an accident, I measured time between the pain in moments of relief that I experienced when having my morning coffee. At that point, it became routine.

I calculated, before graduating from university, that I had spent at least ten thousand dollars on coffee from a small drive thru in the parking lot by my house. The baristas accommodated me by making an 8 oz soy mocha iced with only a drop of chocolate and two beans. They had my coffee ready as soon as they saw my car.


But, I had to leave the coffee shops of Oregon behind to travel and the habit that had comforted me, because a routine that shackled me to my hometown. I struggled. Cried. Embarrassed by it, but too desperate to change. On a short trip to Virginia, I begged shops to make my coffee with soy milk that I purchased and brought to them. It was a crippling addiction to the routine. Not the caffiene.

Eventually, I accepted I had to change. I moved to South American and learned to drink instant. Liberated, I fell in love with the small cups and when out around town, the cafe cortados. Most of all, I loved the conversations with my new friends. And my students at the university, I sent to purchase coffee for me during class. I held office hours at the Starbucks across the street. If I could survive on instant, I could travel anywhere.

On my return to Oregon, my regular coffee shop had trained its newest barista to make my drink during my absence. With the two beans. After ten years of arriving ten minutes after I woke up, they had every confidence I would return and make my daily appearances again. Within a year, I was gone again and learning to drink long blacks in New Zealand.


I suppose it was inevitable that I brought the coffee drinking theme into my writing, because it embodies everything I want to inspire. I want my work to drag people through adversity, but to never lose sight of the smallest hopes that can be grown and developed into strengths that later carry us toward the dreams we choose to pursue when conducted with moderation.

While working in libraries, I've had many people come and tell me their dark experiences. The library  provides a safe hiding place to go when life gets rough. Books can mean everything to readers. The connection to people we may never meet is almost otherworldly as if by sharing our perceptions, our experience and our imagination, we transfer our strength and fortitude.

I have certainly experienced that from great authors.

We often say we love books, but that is utterly inaccurate. Some books are dumb or boring or offensive. There are books that cannot be loved. It's what is in the books that we love. And once, having fallen in love with the form of the book, we can still trace the origin of that affection to the content.

Coffee is the same. A symbol of strength and hope and an addictive behavior I overcame, coffee is just a symbol.

The smell and the beautiful warm brown liquid represents my endless faith that serenity is always within reach.

Happy National Coffee Day!

No comments: