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Sunday, October 29, 2006

The importance of coffee

Fall foliage on our campus. There's so much
beauty right now it hurts to look.

Beloved likes to build the fire and have the coffee ready to hand me as I stumble in. "I have to do something that's nurturing" is her explanation. After a few minutes enough of my synapses awaken that that I thank her, and a few minutes after that I'm rattling on; it's my ten minutes a day of philosophical brilliance.

But sometimes we use the time for emoting.

Yesterday, I said, "y'know, I sometimes forget to say it, but I love you, I love you, I love you." She replied, "y'know, sometimes I can't tell where I end and you begin."

"That's what kept us together during the hard times."


Our hard times were pretty spectacular, in a sordid way; we had worked hard at our marriage but I never really made enough money and she had to work and the kids suffered from that and one of them was autistic and we had trouble with mutual respect and with intimacy and became a dysfunctional family and so one day I took something she said as permission ...

... to go and have an affair.

So it turned out, as any intelligent person would have guessed, that she didn't mean what she said literally, but then it was too late and I was invited to move out, and did, and rented a tiny quad near campus and lived there, off and on, for a year or so.

And one night she said to herself, "where is my other half?"

So she showed up, knocking on the window above my bed, past midnight.

And we sat and talked awhile, and I moved home at about three o'clock in the morning.

We agreed on some rules, though. I would live in separate quarters for a year and we would repair the respect first and then the intimacy.

I had always come over and done the mowing and the repairs, and such, and done things with the kids, but moving back in meant, among other things, that I could rejoin the morning routine.

Which meant coffee by the fire.

And I would build the fire and make coffee and serve it to her, or vice versa, but it was the sipping, facing each other in our flannel robes next to the ticking woodstove, checking in on what our days would be like, that was symbolic.

It was the trust we rebuilt in those days that gave me the courage to come out to her and, with family backing, begin my transition.

Not long after that, Beloved took over all the coffee-serving.

The day would not be a success without this ritual, I think. At least, days when we have missed it, I get by, but as one hampered by an uncollected joy.


It has been three weeks since I could get at the home place, and was really suffering from that. First, as it was a cold morning, I did a few indoor things. I steamed a batch of acorns, drained the steamer, shelled the acorns, steamed them again, and soaked them, then put them through the chopper and made a batch of dough with white and whole wheat flour, oatmeal, finely chopped acorns, chopped red bell peppers, sugar, molasses, salt, water, and yeast, and set it aside to rise. After that the fog lifted and it was glorious out, so I put on a yard dress, bandanna, and apron, and went to see what might be seen.

First up was that there was still a lot of food among the shambles of the garden. I brought down a five-gallon bucket and filled it with beanpods, both dried and green, Jerusalem artichokes, beets, and tomatoes. I took down the bean tripods, stripping off vines with a knife as I went, and piled them aside, then chopped up all the sunflowers and laid them low. Beloved had asked for the heads, but I saw that the birds had already got all the seeds, so I cut up the heads as well. I then gathered leaves off the drive and from around the apple trees, using the mower/bagger, and piled these on the garden.

The "yellow stuffer" tomatoes had not yet been hit by frost, so I pulled them up and hung them by the garage in hopes of ripening off the remaining fruit before the first hard freeze. I gathered yet another basket of apples from the McIntosh and Jonathan trees and then, as the shadows were beginning to stretch their chilly fingers across my field of play, brought everything in.

Beloved had built up the fire and was making quince sauce.

I sat by the stove with my treasures around me and sorted. The scarlet runner beans and bush beans that had dried I shelled into a basket for planting next year. Those whose pods were still green I shelled for soup. Also into the soup went some of the Jerusalem artichokes, the beets, the gleaned tomatoes, some store-bought Chinese cabbage stems. Later I would add in the pok-choi greens and the beet greens, along with a finely chopped onion. And then bake the bread.

What I miss in the midst of this kind of activity is geese.

For years we had lived in another place directly under the main Willamette flyway. The honking went on for weeks, day after day. One could sit on the roof and watch them coming in, by tens and by hundred, to swoop over the roof with an audible swish of their wings.

Here, we have seen less of them, but always a few dozen flocks a year. This year, none. I know they're around; I see them on rivers and ponds, in fields of harvested corn. But they don't appear to be leaving.

Could this be one of those global-warming signs?

I'll ask Beloved for her opinion of this in the morning.

Over coffee.


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