Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 300

Hi.

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, Day 290

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

At noon, the snow gave way to rain.

There’s a special sadness to rain that washes out snow. It’s something like a falling out. These things are brothers. In a little while, they’ll both be gone.

I didn’t take a walk today. I got my clothes washed, coat fluffed, shoes dried, then the rain started. I think that’s okay. I’ve seen snow before. I’ve been through this before. Instead, I made tea and then some coffee and watched the unraveling whiteness from the kitchen window. I read ‘Cherry.’ I’m trying to finish that book. I’m trying to finish anything.

I’ve been having nightmares about teaching again. I often have nightmares, but it’s been awhile for this specific variety. Maybe the stint at the middle school writing club brought them back. I’m standing in the hall with all the lights off. There’s a storm outside. The classrooms are empty. In some of the classrooms are school supplies – books, backpacks, coats and phones – so I know students used to be here. They’re chased off. They’re not coming back. And somehow that feels like my responsibility.

Another year closes. What did we learn? Things seem dire. It’s hard to tell how dire they really are. We have a habit of fixing on the negative. There’s a human resilience, but it’s often tested, and I don’t know that any of us are ready to be tested again.

A month ago, a 13yr-old girl was abducted and murdered in Lumberton, NC. Her funeral is coming up. Her father is Guatemalan and lives and works in the country. The US just denied his Visa to return for her funeral.

What is my responsibility? I write some things and some of them matter. Is there something more? I’ve been thinking about teaching. The thought of teaching paralyzes me. I don’t think I made much of a difference in my students’ lives the last time. A lot of them had hard lives. Some of them didn’t have homes to go to. Meanwhile, I talked a lot about the water cycle.

But that’s the trick: you only have the time to do one specific something for the world. You can’t do anything more. It’s terrifying to think that ‘something’ might not be enough. Or rather, it’s terrifying to know that it can’t be. But you still have to pick it and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.

Novel Count: 15,400 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room


Coffee Log, Day 289

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I’ve been feeling strung out lately so I added less beans to the grinder to cut the caffeine. It helped a little, though like any solution, it wasn’t perfect. Water me down.

I’m sitting in my room with the curtains drawn but the windows open. They’ve got a fire going in the pit. It smells like someone’s burning off old journals. If only a match took care of all the things you put down.

I’m drinking barley tea. It isn’t summer so I’m doing so out of season. In Japan, they’d brew big pots of barley tea for the kids I taught. We’d line them up in their sweat scarves and the Japanese teachers would dole out glasses like medicine. I always thought it seemed remarkable and magic and I wanted to try it but I didn’t ask because I figured that would break the spell. Now I just make it for myself out of my roommate’s stash and it’s refreshing but not very magical.

It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ve been feeling like there’s a warm ball of lint in my skull. If it does snow, if it’s good and cold and bleached, I think I’ll walk around in hopes of working the lint out. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with myself. I’ve been thinking about money, about houses, about careers. I’m happy with my job but I’m not in love with it. Lots of old couples sleep in separate beds, but I’d like to hold something under the covers. And yeah, yeah, I’m writing, but art’s just your mistress, always taking you away from the rest of your life, a little abused, never there when you need her. Deliberating seems like it might be easier in the snow.

I hear them occasionally – voices from the fire, two guys, a woman, and every now and then this little boy or girl that’s young enough to find rapture in something like a pit-fire, like the winter, like a deep, welcoming snow-day.

Novel Count: 14,999 words (here’s the reality of an early-stage novel: it’s messy. I’ve heard stories about writers that can sit down and hammer a draft start to end and only then do the bloody knifework. I imagine them as boring people who wear turtlenecks and drink white wine. No, for me it’s endless tinder-dates, the waking up without your clothes on, the vomit in the toilet, the realization that you’re a realist now and you never really wanted to be. So anyway, I might rip out half of what I’ve written. Or not. We’ll see. It’s early.)

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith (I’ve tried and tried and tried to finish this book; in the end, I sort of hate it; I don’t think I’ll be finishing it anytime soon); Cherry, Nico Walker

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With luck, it might even snow for us.

Haruki Murakami, After Dark


Coffee Log, Day 29

Hi.

Coffee: Honduras, Cooperativa Raos.

Spring walks in wearing last season’s best: it’s snowing. News says the Northeast is getting slammed by another blizzard but it’s enough of a storm here. The flakes are big. Even though it’s warm, the snow’s sticking. The trees look like they’ve been dipped in cornstarch, ready to fry.

As a kid, snow was perfect. Now its more complicated. I’ve got a lot of driving to do today. People I love are driving too. When does danger slip its fingers in your pocket? In the bluster of big wet snow its hard to tell ‘fear’ from ‘responsibility.’

Oh well. It’s a beautiful storm either way.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn who it touches.” E.E. Cummings

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