The Process Involves Coffee

I drink it with milk, no sugar. Whole milk, preferably. When at home my husband humors me by not complaining that I buy expensive locally roasted beans in little 12-ounce bags that I burn through too quickly and so must buy two at a time. I often remark to anyone in earshot that they should come in one-pound bags. Or actually five-pound bags would be even better. I select a medium roast, never dark roast, because medium roast brings out the flavors of the beans themselves, doesn’t mask them with the flavor of something that has been charred. Not that that’s bad. It’s just that dark roast—a barista once explained to me—is its own flavor.

Making my coffee is the first thing I do in the morning, with almost no exceptions. I dread leaving the house without first having a cup because nothing functions until I do. Eye-to-hand coordination. Auditory comprehension. I wear a look of confusion and annoyance until I’ve gotten down the first six or eight ounces.

But this is the magic time. This is when the ideas come, when I’m still halfway dreaming, with only one foot in waking life. This is when I have at last let go of all the junk that accumulated throughout the day yesterday, when I haven’t yet begun to pick up pieces of today’s junk. As I dump the contents of my vintage red mug down my throat, as I feel the caffeine begin to lift me into the day, it is as if my mind is a landscape in which I can see my ideas arranged and resting in their terrain, waiting for me. I can draw a map from one to the next, along this creek, over that small rise. And if I am careful I can find a way to not only place the ideas on the page but capture something of their relationships to one another. This is how I begin.

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