The Trinity of Everyday Life. Part One: The First Sip of Coffee

The first sip of coffee is nothing like the ones that follow.  This one always contains an element of the new, of surprise. It’s the thin boat’s prow quietly folding the smooth surface of the misty lake.  Subsequent cups are met with a sense of entitlement.  Those cups are motorboats, dragging skiers and their whoops and hollers.   

The first coffee awakens the soul to what awaits. To say this seems like a concession and a disparagement of that eternal, ever-wakeful essence of a person that, even in sleep, is thought to be vigilant. Whatever we call the soul is busy even at night in our dreaming, presenting on shoulder-borne trays from its own menu, like a bespeckled gum-snapping waitress emerging from the Worcester Lunch Car kitchen serving up the scrambled eggs of high school English teachers still waiting for that paper on Macbeth and memos from college registrars on the week of commencement informing you that you never passed that required course in mathematics.  The soul is busy keeping you humble, even in the wee hours. It would be better to say that it’s not the soul that is awakened by the inimitable flavor of woody tannins contained in the ceramic mug.  Rather, the coffee re-introduces the mind and the soul to each other.  The taste and smell of the first morning sip of coffee, more than sight or sound or the other senses, glides the mind to the soul.  The first sip reintegrates the personality to the essence of the self and the self to the body. Suit up, the sip says.  A day is here. 

The gates of consciousness swing open upon the first taste of Ethiopian, Columbian, Sumatra or Italian Roast, and memory, ambition, duty, regret, burden, anticipation all swirl, as though through the nose, into the awareness.  Of course, the same effect occurs with Chock Full o’Nuts, Maxwell House, or Chase and Sanborn. There is no need to be snobby about the brand or the grind. But if that initial swallow is not sufficiently astringent, it’s an offense, akin to an adolescent or an old man neglecting to take his cap off in the restaurant.  The day in which you find yourself might be a Naugahyde diner, but the soul, that hardworking waitress who shows up at your booth with her stained laminated menu and who only gets your meager tips, deserves more respect than a frayed Massy Ferguson cap. Or even your Chester E. Nimitz Navy cap.  So you’re a veteran.  She’s seen more combat and every damn battle in human history.  Weak coffee first thing is as annoying as that cap. Take the damn hat off for her,  your soul.  And, for her sake, make sure there are enough grinds in the filter. Double the tablespoons, if need be.  And don’t even think about those freeze-dried instant crystals-- you might as well poison your whole day.

And for heaven’s sake, eschew drinking your first sip from Styrofoam!  Again, poison.  They say a Styrofoam cup weighs marginally less after one has imbibed from it. This would explain the faint taste of plastic that attaches to the brew.  Who knows where in your organs it will find an unsuspecting host to unleash its mayhem?

Show up for that first cup as though entertaining the angels underneath the Terebinths of Mamre.   There is something about sitting down and opening the psalms with a “loving spoonful” that opens the heart to praise, or at the very least, grounds one to what really is.  The double meaning of a coffee ground is not lost on someone who needs to open the day with prayer and coffee.  The first gulp percolates like rainwater to the sunken roots.  To be reminded that one is not adrift in the universe alone and isolated, forced to rely on one’s own strength and presence alone is to drink the first coffee with the Prayer Book open to the petition, “Lord, open thou our lips.”  And the swallow of java makes the response about showing forth praise that much more bold and robust.

Here's a link to bluesman Mississippi John Hurt's "Coffee Blues:"


The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire