When I was wee I thought coffee was simply the most horrible thing grown ups had come up with for self-torture. Adulthood had to be fraught with peril for that foul black brew to be anything but deserved for some great wrong-doing, possibly to children. It was bitter. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It just wasn’t good. That’s where I left coffee until I joined the Army.

On a humid, hot, Alabama morning, dizzy with fatigue, and dehydration, I slouched over my breakfast tray in the mess hall – first Army breakfast, first morning of basic training; I just wanted a cool shower and to go back to bed. I was very certain that the whole ‘join the Army’ decision was a huge mistake. While I sat there staring at my uneaten breakfast, toying with the scrambled eggs while I toyed with questions about my judgement as an adult, a drill sergeant’s shadow fell over me, and a white ceramic mug entered my view. The burly man-voice in my ear followed the too-loud-for-this-to-be-real clack of ceramic mug to table with a hearty “drink this, soldier, you’re going to need it!”  Hesitant to do anything to rouse the ire of a drill sergeant, I put the mug to my lips and took a taste. I know what I expected, I know what I got.

For years after that, I drank coffee – with sugar and half n half – like my body was 60% coffee, rather than water. lol I’ve quit once or twice, when my consumption got so ludicrous it had the potential to affect my health. I’ve spent months at a time on decaf, and always gone back to the real thing, eventually.  Years ago I found my way to really good coffee: exceptional beans, from verified sources, well-roasted by local craftspeople, really fresh, ground-to-purpose just prior to use; really exceptional coffee is a very different experience from the Yuban and Folgers my Mom drank when I was a child.  More time passed, and I eventually found my way to buying my own espresso machine; everyone in the house favored really good coffee, espresso beverages, and it was both a better value, and more consistent quality to have our own machine and learn to pull really good shots. Lattes every morning have been the thing, for a long time.

This morning I drink my coffee black.

This morning I drink my coffee black.

In this all adult household, more than one of us is off dairy, either temporarily, or for the long haul.  It’s a recent thing. For me it is likely temporary, but this morning, I am drinking black coffee. It’s been a while since that has been my early morning practice. The taste of coffee is so different without the smooth ease and luxury of a little cream, the sweetness of a bit of sugar.  On top of the simple change to unadorned blackness in my morning cup, we had also run out of our preferred morning beans (if you’re curious, that’s Ristretto Roaster’s ‘Beaumont Blend’ these days).  A quick walk over to the local grocer, and our weekend coffee was assured, but they don’t carry Ristretto Roaster. I got a couple other roaster’s beans for the weekend, and the beans of Saturday and Sunday were by far more pleasant than the beans of this morning, which are strangely reminiscent of Army coffee in the 80s.

So…I write about coffee, this morning. The taste of it, the memories, the importance of the experience… It’ll be black coffee for a while, at least a week, maybe longer.

There are other exciting bits and pieces. My visit to The Grotto on Saturday was lovely, and I got some amazing pictures. It was mildly disappointing, too, because although it is a garden for meditation, contemplation, and even advertised that way, it was quite crowded with large-ish extended families visiting (probably due to the Easter weekend) and they were more boisterous, and louder, than I expected or found pleasant. Gangs of giggling high school girls taking selfies and sharing social network items vocally while they lagged their parents steps were distracting, and quarrelsome couples, or people with fussy children, took the potential for real stillness right out of the experience. It was still worth doing. I got some great pictures, and enjoyed exploring the features on my new camera phone.

Symbols, and messages, in the forest.

Symbols, and messages, in the forest.

It poured down rain the entire time I walked the paths and explored The Grotto. The Stations of the Cross are not my symbols, but the powerful arrangement and beautiful statuary were moving, even so.

There were also flowers that hinted at love...

There were also flowers that hinted at love…

And the soft light filtered through rain and clouds made some blossoms seem luminous.

And the soft light filtered through rain and clouds made some blossoms seem luminous.

Colors stood out from the lush greenery, seeming magical and more exotic than 'real life'.

Colors stood out from the lush greenery, seeming magical and more exotic than ‘real life’.

From a distance, even symbols that are not 'mine' might speak to me of things that matter.

From a distance, even symbols that are not ‘mine’ might speak to me of things that matter.

It was a lovely spring weekend. Flowers, fellowship, and love generally make for a fine weekend I think.

Simple flowers, a rainy day.

Simple flowers, a rainy day.

I took a lot of pictures. The lingering sensation for me is that the pictures somehow capture things I didn’t experience in-the-moment, that day. It is strange to look at them later, and feel those feelings that were missed in the din of chattering school girls, arguing in-laws, and assorted people who’d only come along ‘because it matters so much to her‘. I wonder for a moment, if the ‘her’ I heard referenced so often is a mother, a grandmother, an in-law, or… the woman for whom The Grotto exists, in the first place? She is of many faiths, many religions, many followers; she is woman, herself.

A powerful symbol of life, of love, of family; a woman and child.

A powerful symbol of life, of love, of family; a woman and child.

Well, Spring, that was lovely. Let’s do it again, sometime. 🙂