Morning Coffee

photo (5)I’m at our family place with most of my FOO (family of origin).  The house is big enough to hold all of us, though the septic tank gets a little cranky if we flush too often or shower too long.  It’s great to see everyone, to come back to this place where we have gathered most summers of my life, to raise glasses and share reader glasses and tell our stories to the younger generations.  It’s all good and harmonious – until we get to the  morning coffee.

We have four different ways of making morning coffee here, because none of us can agree on our Morning Foglifter (which is actually a Stumptown label that none of us has brought.)  My sister has her wee french press for her “stick-a-spoon-in-it-and-it-will-stand-on-its-own” coffee.  My parents have their own french press with special grinder for their strong-ish (emphasis on the “ish”) brew.  My brother and niece grind their own in the morning and brew it, half-decaf.  Me?  Well, last month I bought a Cuisinart 4-cup drip like the one I have at home, along with ground Peet’s French Roast, because the last thing I want to do before I’ve had my morning coffee is listen to a coffee grinder.  Least Favorite Sound. Ever.  It’s like the Fran Drescher of kitchen machines.

I try not to read too much into the whole coffee thing.  I try not to overanalyze the situation, not think that this is endemic of our familial inability to come together, to let go of our preferences and share in the common good, or the common ground, or the common grounds.  At dinner we all manage to share the same bottles of wine; why not morning coffee?

Truth be told, although most of us in my family are morning people there’s a limit to our morning-ness. We are up with the sun, but we don’t really want to engage with each other until we’ve been a little dosed with caffeine.  Maybe there’s grace in allowing each other our individual brews.  After all, my husband foregoes the coffee and reaches for the Diet Coke, and my sister-in-law is a confirmed tea drinker, and we love them.

When we would come to this place when I was little, at the old house where we stayed before my parents built their own place, there was one percolater.  Grandpa was usually up first, and the percolator was going, bubbling up in the glass lid-thing at the top.  If you were a coffee drinker, that’s what you drank in the morning – no french presses, no coffee grinders, just a good waking up to Folgers.  My grandfather, who had a magnificent, wry sense of humor, would laugh to see us these mornings.  But he would be glad we’re all up here, whatever we might be drinking.

So I raise my mug to him this morning, with gratitude for the gift of this place, and for my morning cuppa joe.

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Dream/Reality

A-dreaming-person-008Last night I had a weird dream.  It wasn’t a nightmare, but it wasn’t a good dream either.  I dreamt that all the oxygen was running out, and soon everyone in the world would die.  Neither my husband nor my child was in the dream (thank goodness) but our dog was.  I remember wanting him to be near me when I died.  In the dream I was a little frantic and very, very sad, not only because I was going to die but because everyone was going to die.  And soon.

I woke up from the dream around 4am and was able to fall asleep again.  In that time between waking and falling back asleep, I started thinking about what I would do if the oxygen really was running out of the world.  Would I panic?  Would I break into a hospital or doctor’s office or scuba shop and steal oxygen?  Would I try to get on the good side of some conspiracy theorist who had a bunker stocked with oxygen just in case this scenario played out?  I went back to sleep and this time dreamt about being in NYC with college friends, so evidently my subconscious wasn’t too scarred by the oxygen deprivation.

The dream has stuck with me today.  Where did it come from?  We recently were watching some procedural crime show in which the victim died from asphyxiation, but that was over a week ago.  The dog was curled up at my feet, which is probably why he made it.  But someone once advised me to pay attention to the emotions that stay with me after a strong dream, so I’ve been thinking about low-level frantic-ness and deep sadness.  My best guess is that this dream was about the world running out of something.

Unless you’ve been off the grid with your head in the sand lately, it’s hard not to notice that there is a lot of bad stuff going on right now.  Those Nigerian schoolgirls are still missing, and since they’ve been gone, eleven of their parents have died.  Seven were killed in a Boko Haram attack; four died from health-related issues.  We lament the disappearance of these girls half way across the globe while we wring out hands over what to do with the refugee children flooding into Texas from Central America.  An airliner was shot down, killing hundreds of people, many of whom were involved in the vital work of AIDS research.  More planes have crashed.  ISIS is now requiring that all women and girls in Mosul undergo genital mutilation.

And I have no words about the violence in Israel and Palestine.

Maybe my dream was about the world’s loss of capacity to breathe in something – peace, maybe, or patience, or reason.  Or maybe I’m a little frantic and very, very sad because it feels right now, at both the conscious and subconscious level, as though we are running out of hope.  And we will all die without hope.

May we catch our breath soon.hopeless

A piece of paper, a piece of cloth

While on our summer vacation, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a place I commend to your visiting.

The first thing I went to see was the Magna Carta (or, apparently, just Magna Carta without the ‘the’.) This copy, only one of four, was on loan from some place in England where it had never before left. I’m a little fuzzy on the why/how of its being at the MFA, but there it was in Boston and there I was in Boston so I went to see it.

It’s a small thing, really, for something of such monumental importance. A little more than a foot square, an 800 year-old piece of paper inscribed in Medieval Latin, the stuff that would undo a king, inspire patriots, and generally bend the arc of history ever so slightly more toward justice. It is the work of men, of landowners and taxpayers, of citizens.

I confess to getting choked up while looking at it, this little old piece of paper, getting choked up the way I get choked up singing “America the Beautiful ” or “For All the Saints.” I could blame end-of-vacation tiredness, or gratitude for the privilege of being able to see it, but I think the tears were about something else. I think they were about our dreams, our dreams for something better not just for us but for everyone.

I found a Kleenex and moved on to an exhibition of quilts. Large, colorful, no words but tens of thousands of stitches; the work of women. The work of women who were not dreaming but who were eking out life and comfort, gathering the scraps and the leftovers and the rags to make something new out of the old.

None of the quilts, beautiful as they were, made me cry, but a few took my breath away and a few I wanted to wrap around me while sitting in my favorite chair and reading. Not the stuff of dreams, these quilts, but very much the stuff of reality. The reality of “women’s work”; the reality of cold winters and scraps of clothing; the reality of women coming together to provide and create.

All this on the day when my vacationing friends and I were lamenting the SCOTUS decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Not a lot of dreaming in that one but a whole lot of reality; clearly the work of men and not of women.

I know there are plenty of men out there who find the Hobby Lobby ruling outrageous, just as there must be plenty of women who take comfort in knowing that their religious preferences have been upheld. (Just writing that sentence makes me foam at the mouth a little.)

It is not my desire to restart any battle of the sexes. I think we’ve had enough of those. But I do wonder how things might be different if more men collected little pieces of fabric and made quilts. And I do wonder how things might be different if women had been allowed to write those little scraps of paper so long ago.

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