Coffee Log, Day 160


Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; advertised strong, rich and dark; visions of the high-powered machos from Sex and the City; in reality, it came out rough and mellow like a rained-on kitten.

I went to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC. It’s a Tuesday, so I was expecting it to be vacant. There was a packed driveway. Kids were led around by girls in green polos, a summer camp. Lots of stay-at-home mothers. I was one of two men on the trail, adult men, and that saddened me. How many of those mothers would rather be working? How many dads would rather spend a cloudy Tuesday with their kids?

The trail snakes down a terrace of plank paths and risers. It’s well marked, educational. The bluffs were covered in ferns. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re a few hundred miles west in the Appalachians. The drops are steep, valley’s unknowable. I’ve been to Hemlock Bluffs two times before, once with friends and once with a lover. In my memory, it’s always cloudy. The trail goes fast on the way down. It burns your calves on the way up.

Last day of vacation, last day of July, the dog-hot days of summer. My neck and arms are pricked by tiny bug-bites. Cicadas are singing in the pines. Twenty years ago, my mom would yank me to Roses right about now, shopping for pencils, paper, big stashes of things a kid only ever uses half of through the school year. The scared sweat of meeting rooms full of people, of stacking black letters beside your name. I miss it sometimes, playing the academic game. You’re a specific kind of ‘free’ when teachers and parents tell you what to do.

On the way out the park, I walked by an open door. The conservancy was buzzing; big plastic tables; a full class of just-past-toddlers sorting sticks and leaves. I hope their mothers are happy working, hope their fathers pick them up. To the kids, it won’t matter for another couple decades – right now, all they need to know is which leaf is from the birch tree, which stick fell off the tallest pine.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“There’s always a bit of suspense about the particular way in which a given school year will get off to a bad start.” – Frank Portman, King Dork


Coffee Log, Day 95


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand

I spent the morning watching one of my favorite things: videos of porcupines playing in wildlife conserves.

What a life – a big fluffy buck-toothed burrower; unhugable; ignorant of your own best features.

It’s easy to see the Human capacity for violence these days. When big-wigs trade devastating egos like baseball cards; when fat men take everything they can claw from young women; there’s blood on your shoulders and blood on mine, every brick of every city has someone’s suffering pushed in it.

But that’s not what makes us special.

Snickers the porcupine climbed up his keeper’s leg, arm, and onto his head. He nibbled the guy’s hair and dug claws. The guy’s white skin got pink by the end of it. He was very gentle with Snickers. Eventually, he let Snickers down.

Porcupines can love, but only blithely: they look for bark, trees, affection, warmth, good-positive-things, but don’t know how to give. They’ll eat what they can and make do to survive. Most of the life on Earth works this way. Lovely and powerful as it might be, it’s self or family-centered, eyes on the prize of survival.

In our Human hearts, we’ve got the same impulses, and all of us – at one time or another – acts on them; but unlike porcupines we don’t have to treat the world as a checklist of uses. We can choose to Love even when nothing’s coming back to us.

Violence reminds me of the animal blood in me. Snickers the porcupine tells me I have the subtly divine power to choose to be better.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I am going to the USA to catch sight of a wild porcupine and to give some lectures.” – Sigmund Freud