A Morning Like This


Today, I’m at home. It’s a much needed, well-deserved day given in trade for a whole load of late hours, stressful days, and hard work.

My first memory of the morning was the alarm going off about 6am, and not having to rush to the shower, dash through breakfast, and then barrelling the truck to the office. I just laid there, with Becky sneaking up behind me, holding me through three or four cycles of the snooze alarm going off. There’s nothing as comforting as being enveloped in her grasp, and I found my peace for the day there.

I hauled my carcass out of bed about 9am and eleven glorious hours of almost uninterrupted sleep. Of late, the sleep has been short, either punctuated by waking from sleep for work events, or grasping for the pager in the middle of the night, wondering if I’ve slept through an alert. That’s certainly not a good way to get rested and fresh-minded for the kind of tasks that have been occupying me at the office. I know I haven’t been sharp lately, and I’m convinced that I’m just plain exhausted physically, spritually, and mentally. So today is a good respite from the grind, and a good opportunity to regroup.

The first thing I did as I awoke was hug the dogs as they lay with my in the bed, and got my requisite puppy-kisses in return — along with a little snout scratching for Emma, a little steamrollering from Molly. For some reason, they think they need to be the first things we see and touch when we wake. There’s a lot of comfort in that; I guess the dogs are smarter than I give them credit for.

I walked through the empty house, and found myself at the piano. I haven’t felt much like playing lately, which is a real shame. I just haven’t had the clarity, energy and focus to sit down and work my way through the dozen or so tunes I play and practice at: “Amazing Grace”, and some standards from Les Miserables and The Music Man. I find a lot of peace when I play, but especially on that piano. It’s the piano Dad gave Mom before she was diagnosed with CML. She started to learn to play, and then was so sick for so long. Of course, she made it through the disease, but never really picked up playing again. After Beck and I moved into this house, we finally had room for the piano, and Mom sent it up here with us during a trip from The Mountain. When I play, it’s a really strong connection my Dad, despite that I never knew him to play the piano.

Dad did a lot of things in his life, and one was being a musician. When he was in school, he played the saxophone, both in school bands and just for the enjoyment of it. I can remember him and his guitar playing friends getting together in the basement and playing. I tried to follow in those footsteps when I was about ten. I lugged the to-me-gigantic saxophone — a Conn tenor sax, I think — to school, and tried to learn to play. I didn’t have the burn at that time for practicing, and playing at being a kid was more important to me than playing that sax. Unfortunately, the instrument has found its way into someone else’s hands over the years. While I’m nowhere near good enough to play piano for others, I sure feel like I carry a bit of that part of Dad when I sit at the keys, and maybe that’s why I find such solace sitting on the bench. I still miss my father so bad, and that’s one way to bring a little bit of him back to me.

I took a little break from my playing in indulge in another one my comforts: coffee. A year or two ago, Beck bought me a Cusinart coffee maker that absolutely makes the best coffee of anything I’ve ever tasted. We’ve experimented with lots of different coffees, and I really have two favorites. One is Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. I haven’t had any for a year or more, but I do remember the flavor, and absolutely savor it. My other favorite is a local brand, Thomas. It is rich, dark, and really tasty. So this morning, I dropped two scoops of it, and another scoop of a vanilla roast that I keep in the freezer, just to add a hint of flavor to the mix.

I have to break here and mention my coffee scoop. Coffee, like many other tastes, is a sensory pleasure. It’s the smell, the taste, the texture. It’s also the mechanics of brewing that help add to the pleasure for me. A few months ago, we stopped in Starbucks, and I found that they had a barrista’s coffee scoop available, and I snatched it up. It’s heavy, with a large rubber coated grip that feels good in my hand. The balance is amazing, especially with a scoop of coffee beans in the bowl. It’s a small thing, but having this heavy scoop in my hand generates an almost-Pavlovian response, because I know that only a few minutes after using it, I will have some delicious coffee.

I played Mom’s piano for a little longer while I let the Cusinart do its job, and once it signalled, I made my way into the kitchen. Becky says that I’ve brought way too many coffee cups into the house — I buy them whenever we go on trips. However, picking a cup is easy for me. I always reach for the Van Briggle coffee mug we bought in Colorado Springs a couple of years ago. It’s massive, holds a ton, and feels heavy in my hand. It’s a no-brainer for me.

I’m a bit snobbish I guess about my coffee ingredients, and that runs from the beans to the sugar to the cream I use. I really like the raw sugars, demirara and turbinado, and usually have to buy the loose sacks of them. Beck found a box of demirara sugar cubes when she went to the grocery, though, and I love ’em. They’re easy to use, and fit well in the English sugar bowl Beck bought for the coffee sugar. I drop six of the cubes in my mug, and pour the coffee, savoring the scent of the coffee as it splashes in the mug.

My grandmother was a coffee drinker too, and it was she that taught me how to cream my coffee. I can remember her pouring cream in the coffee until it turned this nice shade of light tan, and to this day, I still mix my coffee this way. Since I like my coffee sweet and thick with flavor, I use flavored cream — french vanilla usually. Once I’ve poured a big ol’ dose of cream in the coffee, only then it’s ready for drinking.

And so that’s where I sit on a morning like this. The Bose Wave Radio is on, playing good country music, something which I acquired a taste for after Dad’s death. It seemed to touch me just the right way, and speaks of the part of the country in which I grew up and from where all my roots extend. I’m in my La-Z-Boy chair, with both dogs struggling to see just how close they can get to me. My coffee’s on the endtable, and the door to the deck is open. Just outside, it’s 48 degrees, and I’ve got a small throw over my legs and feet — it’s been raining all night, so the air is moist, and fall’s leaves are all over the deck.

I could sure get used to mornings like this. It’s on these kind of days this that I get to find “me” again, someone who gets pushed aside by the stress and grind of work, and the ebb and flow of everyday life. I like bumping into that guy — he’s more insightful and relaxed than I am, and I really need to learn to be more of both.