I can’t imagine a day without coffee. I can’t imagine. Howard Schultz
Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words. Plautus
I see Don twice a day. In truth, I see him many more times, however, these twice a day encounters include coffee and wine. For much of our married life, and certainly since we both retired to live as artists, we have created two important pauses in our twenty-four hours. The day begins with coffee and ends with wine. These simple pauses have become daily rituals. Without these beverage bookends, our lives feel incomplete and unfocused.
Don is an early riser. I am not. We laugh that he puts in a full day’s work by the time I show up for morning coffee. While I sleep, he has watched several documentaries, listened to the world news, solved a photographic issue, and made headway on his white board to do list. I prefer to enter the day slowly. Too early to face the disturbing world news, I write for half an hour while still in bed. Hand written pages sort out my mind while I view the natural world from the bedroom window. Enticing smells of rich, dark coffee find their way from the kitchen to our upstairs bedroom. I am so grateful Don has chosen to take on this task that begins our day together. He is the coffee Grand Master, having developed the formula that makes the perfect cup.
Choosing a coffee mug is a simple pleasure. Will it be from an artist we know, a gift from a friend or family member? Morning moods can change the selection. With dark strong coffee and a splash of cream, our conversations lay out the day’s agenda. Who is doing what and where? Should we go into Madison together or do our schedules dictate separate cars today? Is this a day we need to be mindful of both giving time to a mutual task, like cleaning the house or grocery shopping? What’s the plan for lunch and dinner? Does something need to be pulled from the freezer or purchased while we are out?
Morning coffee is often a recounting of our dreams from the night before. Don is frequently losing something, like the car, or getting lost in an airport. Why, we ask each other? What does this mean about his life, our life? My dreams focus around people and relationships. Why did I dream about a person so deep in my past or a stranger who became a central character? What brings them to mind? Dreams provide curious conversation for our mornings as does the current political scene.
Coffee happens in Simplicity’s living room. Sitting across from each other in comfy chairs, I tuck my legs underneath me. There is a gracious patience to our conversation, a give and take, an awareness of when talking too much, as well as the phrasing of a thoughtful question. I never feel this ritual is rushed or abandoned for the demands of the day. This is a priority.
Just as the mornings bring us together, four o’clock in the afternoon brings closure to our working day. Red wine is poured and a tempo of letting go begins. During warmer weather, wine time happens on the front porch. Here we catch sight of neighbors out in their yards or returning home, dog walkers, and joggers. Everything within us pauses. The day’s creative work that experienced both frustration and accomplishment is done.
“I feel like I am going nowhere with this painting. Every day I struggle. That counts, doesn’t it? Just showing up every day?” My kind and wise husband smiles as his eyes tell me all is well. No words are needed. I know that being faithful to the practice will move me off ‘stuck’, someday. He knows that, too. Just saying it aloud to someone who knows and lives this same battle, is enough. More than enough. We catch up with the other about what we learned during our day between coffee and wine, the frustrating places in our writing, photography, and painting. The insights and breakthroughs find voice. There is a preciousness to these times together. While talking and sipping, we are reminded that our days make sense and offer value.
These later years of life provide an opportunity to pause. The days of childcare and nine to five jobs are gone. Life has a different rhythm. “Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event. You’re not downing a glass of wine in the midst of doing something else,” says David Hyde Pierce. Morning coffee, taken on the run in our earlier lives, is now savored. The networking events with a glass of wine have quieted. Slowly sipped, the coffee and wine accompany thoughts both distant and near. These are the stilled moments that prompt dreams of narrow boating on the English canals. The moments when a full-hearted “I love you” breaks the rich silences. Here time is honored and feels blessed. Lift your glasses. Cheers!