Coffee Log, Year 3, Day 2


Coffee: Organic Medium Roast, Don Pablo’s

The first snow stuck to the ground since two December’s ago. The news said it had been four hundred days. Last year was a hot year, hottest on record. I live in North Carolina at the edge of the coastal plain. I remember winter, when it was something that shook through violently once or twice a year, icing up the trees.

All I can talk about now is climate change. At least, sometimes it feels that way. Back in the Al Gore era we knew what was happening, and before that too, but none of it was personal. Greenland’s glaciers don’t belong to you, not even if you live there. Something that big is always going to be closer to God, so when it starts dying, even when you see the pictures, it doesn’t feel real.

But you light a couple states on fire and burn lawnmower smoke in late December, reality sinks in.

Our planet’s lights are going out. One by one, every window in the skyscraper, this or that species dies, floods rise, reefs are bleached. A country woman can’t catch fish the way she used to, not to mention the other, darker tolls of environmental poverty. In the city you’re safe enough, if you’ve got money, but even the price of luxury comes with a caveat, that you can’t leave those beautiful apartments anymore because it’s too hot out, or it’s thundering, or insert some other kind of global narrowing. No wonder we all take to twitter. Some of us are stuck melting without shelter or freezing in the cold, and the more fortunate can’t afford to risk a trip outside.

The coronavirus is interesting. People are rallying around it like cats take mice. There’s a lot of talk of it slowing, that it won’t like the warmer weather or the coming spring, but what exactly is warmth anymore? How do you define a season when the years are so volatile? And if we can’t get our human heads straight enough to look this climate crisis in it’s face, who’s to say our neighbor virus will face it any different?

I see long wet things crawl outside in the half-drunk hours of morning, knotted fingers, reaching out around all the sullen throats.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis’. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.

Greta Thunberg, No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 300


Coffee: Organic Dark Roast, Don Pablo’s

January’s almost over. It hasn’t felt much like January, a lot of warm days, not much cold. It makes me wonder how much my memories of January are accurate, and how much is made up – was it always this way? I’ve got this vivid picture of 10th grade – I’m in the Pre-Calc class with a lot of juniors; it’s an old school building and we’re on the second floor; suddenly, in the middle of doing problem sets, it starts to snow. Not a lot, just flurries, but it’s enough to drag us out of our seats and watch it. Cautious cream-colored snowflakes, falling down.

I read this article today about how traditional fishermen around the world are struggling to make ends meet, not just because of the overfishing from big commercial operations, but also – and ironically – from fish protection efforts that mark out sanctuary spots in coves in bays. These spots are supposed to help the ocean’s population recover, they’re blacklisted for fishing and come with stiff fines. But they’re also some of the easiest places to reach when what you own is a one-person row-boat. The commercial fleets can press farther and farther into the open oceans to dig up whatever survivors have swum that far, but people living simply – out of necessity, mostly, though sometimes choice – are punished for trying to take what little they can find close by.

The world’s changing. The seas are warming. We’re left with shorter winters, at least around here. It makes it hard to hope sometimes, but change is change, even when it’s bad, and the only golden rule to change is that it’s unpredictable, so I guess there’s also room to hope.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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You [demagogues] are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way it’s only in troublous times that you line your pockets.

Aristophanes, The Knights

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 295


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing things when I don’t have anything to write about. That’s good and bad, I guess, because I say less but also more when I make the choice to say it.

It was a hot day. That makes me think of glaciers, and that makes me think of Australia. There are acres burning for miles across the continent of Oceania. They’ve been burning since late last summer and don’t look inclined to stop anytime soon. It’s not that a hotter world causes fires, exactly, but it plants a lot of seeds, the dry grass, dead leaves, ample kindling, like buried embers in your uncles favorite coal pit, the one he spits a pig on every summer. Now, I’m the pig and you’re the pig, skin crisping golden brown, rolling, rolling, rolling,

I met a kid who’d just had his 1st birthday. He was with his mom, we were opening a savings account. The kid wore blue overalls with big red buttons and he could say his name, mostly, though it took a few tries for anyone but his mom to understand it. Otherwise, he liked saying ‘cat,’ and would point at things, like my chair, and say ‘cat,’ whether or not it applied. Which seemed like magic to me, thinking that the whole world is made up of two things for him, himself, this little named pink thing with pretty overalls, and cats, cats and cats and cats. I hope he doesn’t learn any more language for a while. Let the world seem soft and purring as long as it can.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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In 1995 the budget for fighting fire made up 16 percent of the US Forest Service’s budget. It rose to the 50 percent level in 2015 and could reach close to 70 percent by 2025.

Edward Struzik, Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 289


Coffee: Organic Dark Roast, Don Pablo’s; a gift from my father; he bought the beans off the internet, had read reviews about what brand’s best, settled on Don Pablo because it showed up on so many lists; and it’s good; easy; like late winter, with your socks on, by the windows, never quite needing to go out

It got up to 70 today so I cracked the window open. It was cloudy, and then it rained. I liked listening to rain (I think everybody does) so I enjoyed myself, had a couple glasses of ice water to keep cool, to keep cold like the winter, to remember what season I was in. Because it is winter despite the temperature, and just because the world’s greenhouse heat-throws is the new normal doesn’t mean you have to forget the crisp seasons of your childhood, all the things that brought us here.

I’ve been having a sick day. A couple sick days, actually. My throat’s scratchy and my nose is running, but neither so terribly as to lay me out. It’s one of those bugs that muddies up your head but doesn’t take the energy out of you. I feel like I could run a mile but forget where I was going halfway through. To deal with this, I’ve been hooked in to TV screens and book reading, things to catch my focus, keep me less in the present with all it’s fuzzy green gunk and more in that nebulous fiction of no-time, self-entertainment.

The year’s almost over. Some would say the decade, I’d say so too. Zero is such a round number it makes you want to climb inside it and push off, a raft ride, spiraling by into uncharted waters.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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We knocked on the doors of Hell’s darker chamber, Pushed to the limit, we dragged ourselves in,

Joy Division, Decades

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 216


Coffee: Almond Milk Latte, Bottled, Starbucks Brand; was a bit lighter than the dairy stuff; a road drink, caffeine to get you places, the formaldehyde linger of sugar

I was four feet out in the lake where the water got up to my shins. A dead fish passed by. The sun was out, a few white clouds. You were so far away, it seemed, even more so with the way the water was moving.

Today was preoccupied with climate change. After morning, the sun got higher and hotter and we were sweating 90’s. I came home and sat under a ceiling fan. I listened to a podcast panel talk about how the climate crisis is informing peoples’ decisions to have children. We’re all scared, basically, and none of use know what to do.

There’s this performance that’s been going on around here for 20 years, The Paperhand Puppet Intervention. I heard about it a few weeks ago for the first time. Today, after the lake, S invited me to see it (she was going anyway, she’s got family performing) and I said ‘Sure.’ Driving over to Chapel Hill, my car read 98 degrees. The performance was outside, but thankfully under old UNC trees.

What’s worth fighting for? The play was a predictable kind of magic, bred from the bones of this old liberal town up on it’s hill. They danced on stage as elaborate papier-mache monsters, circling birds. S’s son was mostly mesmerized. The story went like this: the heavy hand of industry strips a forest of its trees and builds up a city filled with rampant pollution; only the hope of three children and a magical acorn can push back the pollution; a pastoral return to romantic dreams of sassafras trees and frog-filled countrysides.

Halfway through, a kid runs out of the amphitheater and comes back with a plastic bag of chips. He’s loving the performance, and loving it even more with his pre-packaged snack. His shirt has an ad for electrolytes. Five or six families have brought out their silicon-chipped, electricity guzzling phones. It’s a big amphitheater, so two large speakers project the songs all the way up the audience. They’re selling shirts at the entrance made in China and printed in chemical dyes. We all took our cars out on the winding highways to attend the show.

The more you say you want something, the less you see it for what it is. How much comfort are we willing to give up? Will we leave the forest to the trees and stop using paper? Will we fill in the silicon mines and plant flowers on the graves of our iPhones?

S told me she bought her son a toy excavator for his 2nd birthday. When the big machines came out to cut down the forest, he was happy, he cheered. People started clearing land for a reason. We let industry burn away our ozone because there’s beauty in this too. We all want the answers to be easy. But they never are.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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“But now,” says the Once-ler, “now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 207


Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There was a lizard in the office. It had a fat gut and a long tail. I saw it in the lobby, then it ran to the break room. I tried to chase it. I wanted to take it outside. In the end, my coworker caught the lizard. She told me she had a lot of them at her house so she was a pro. She took a tray for utensils and tipped it over. She caught it, then held him in with a stack of paper plates. I was disappointed. I’d wanted to catch the lizard myself.

I found a frog on the footpath outside my apartment. She was scrunched up like a vanilla wafer and staying still. She saw me. I knelt down. I was worried someone might step on her, but I was also worried I’d give her a different death if I got her too scared. Her back was different colors, browns and golds. She was autumn come up from the river, wheat fields. In the end, I left the frog but snapped her picture. I walked away. I hope she’s okay.

Due to climate change, the earth is rapidly losing its amphibians. Jury’s still out on reptiles. I remember my mother talking about how much she’d be missing all the polar bears, or the rhinos, but never heard her talk about the frogs. That said, I’m sure she’ll miss them too. I think sometimes about the world I’m making. I’m a little conscious, but not so much that I won’t absently suck on a plastic straw.

Last weekend, I wast at a friend’s house. As long as I’ve known her, she’s kept away from paper towels. When dinner was done and there were dishes for washing, we scrubbed them down with a wet rag. With breakfast, I wiped my lips with a cloth napkin. It was strange at first, not being able to throw anything away. Then it felt natural. Like this is how it’s always been, like my hands are maybe made for saving, no more disposable soul.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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That is the way it is done, the way it has always been done. Frogs have every right to expect it will always be done that way.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 194


Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There’s a man in a long tweed coat walking hundreds of miles to meet me. He’s got a long stride. He keeps his hands in his pockets with bent elbows. He keeps his hair tied up in a wide-brim hat. Nobody knows how long it is.

On his coat he’s woven pictures. They’re scattered like tattoos. Bright white fishes spring like chickens on the hem, dancing wildly around underwater mountains. His back is seabirds, and he’s fixed old wet trees around his loin. The tweed coat is so expansive there’s no limit to what it can capture. On his left shoulder is a small picture, two children, a torn down house, and gray rising water.

There are rumors: some say the man was born just one week ago, others say they’ve seen him for a hundred years. He’s the kind of character that creates stories in dark bars or the backseats of fast-moving cars as they hurry away from something. Like all stories, he slips in and out of different colors as he’s passed along.

I heard a story about hurricanes on NPR. It said that as the world warms the trade winds weaken, so big dark storms will move slower and with more force. Hearing that made me think about a paper mill I used to pass riding with my parents on the way to South Carolina, the way it stank like scared animals, and the heavy white cloud that cast off from the factory, rising through the atmosphere, angry at having been kept cooped up for so long.

Right now, the man’s walking around Wilmington. He’s reaching out his long, sweat-thick fingers. He might not find me – I’m good at hiding – but he’ll leave his mark, making sure I can’t forget that he’s here.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 150


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

The sky got so dark today it felt like we’d made a pillow fort, hiding under until our parents got home.

Thunderstorms – there’s nothing quite like them to jog you. You could be buried in the deepest office and still hear the sky crack and clouds shake open. And watching the rain come down reminds you what it takes to grow.

We rode out the storm for three hours this afternoon while the power went in and out. The bank got dark then brighter. I was helping a woman open a checking account and tried to hurry. No luck. When we were done, she was facing the full faucet of the storm.

Now it’s cooler. The rain scooped the heat out. And we’ve already forgotten a week of hundred degree weather, content to chirp with the frogs all evening, reveling in something comfortable, and that’s okay, as long as we wake up tomorrow without forgetting what it as like to be bone-dry and half-starved, that the world is still just one week away from roasting, that we’re responsible, like it or not.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 130


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

The old creek-bed dried out. There was a dead snake at the head of the road. Now that the sun’s gone down, everyone’s coming out to walk their dogs, only the heat’s not done and the dogs are flustered, scared of the way the asphalt feels when it’s been cooked.

If your friend tells you the world’s not dying, you must smack them, aiming for the spot triangulated between their nose and eyes. If your partner tells you something similar, coax them to bed, and try to prove the world’s worth loving, breathing deep so you’re sucking up more of the hot carbon to prove your point.

This week, there were record-setting high temperatures in Europe.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 94


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I got home and filled a white bowl with tap water then set it outside. There’s a longhair black and white cat that comes around. I saw her poking under my neighbor’s car. It’s 100 degrees. She was hiding from the heat so I figured she could use the water. When I came back, though, she’d run away. I left the bowl on the ledge we use for putting down bags as we get the door. I haven’t seen go for the water. She’s a skittish thing. But I once found her meowing at midnight outside my window so I know she knows how to get here. Tonight, at midnight, maybe she’ll come have a drink.

All day, the heat was all anyone could talk about. Pundits puttered about droughts and early fires. There was a break around noon when some clouds came over but then it was right back to the convection. Most of the gossip goes like this: “I’d have to wake up two hours earlier if I was to mow my lawn today!” One guy came in with a green hat and long sleeves. He works outside, construction. The heat must have been unbearable in all those layers, but I guess it’s better than getting burned.

Every year, the same old voices are loudly denying climate change. Meanwhile, a hole opened up so big over Australia that it’s killed off the Great Barrier Reef. It’s okay, I think, to destroy something if you’ve got a purpose. It’s okay to cut down a forest to build houses for your family. But the people bearing the brunt of climate change aren’t the ones benefiting from the destruction. Mostly those too poor to move out of the way of tidal waves or heat death. That’s a bit depressing. It’s aggressive. One man turning up the temperature in all the other rooms while sipping ice-cold margaritas. We should all be fixing margaritas for each other, or else settling for a splash of tequila in a salted shot.

Burn the world a little bit if you have to, but do so equitably, and with enough sense to leave the house out of the fire.

Currently Reading: Have picked a new book but not had the chance to start it yet; more info to come

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Once again there was the desert, and that only.

Stephen King, The Gunslinger