Ritual

Instead of habits, or routines, transform these actions regularly, unvaryingly, or mechanically performed into rituals.

I suggest one here.

Transfigure – exalting, glorifying – morning coffee into a ritual.

Procure a French press, eight-cup. Style as well as durability and functionality should be considered. This press will become a companion. Choose it as you would choose a friend. Name her, him, or it. Naming is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility. Take it seriously. The name of my French press is Nathaëlle.

The coffee purchased is crucial, too, of course. Whole beans are essential. I prefer the richest, darkest roast available. Do not compromise here. Fulfill the desire for variety with an eye, nose, and taste appreciative of character rather than with a pocketbook concerned only with expedience. Grind the beans, coarsely, just before they are to be used. I use an Italian electric coffer grinder with a metal burr.

While boiling fresh, cold water in a kettle on the stove top, heat also, at low temperature, a small pitcher of whole milk, preferably raw, preferably Guernsey or Jersey, in a larger pot, just to where a thin film forms on the top of the small pitcher, and steam begins to rise. Do not boil. You are in effect double boiling the milk; so that it does not and cannot scorch.

Spoon four heaping tablespoons of the freshly ground coffee into the French press. Choose a special spoon that you will dedicate to this ritual every morning, preferably round rather than oblong, preferably silver, wooden, or bamboo.

When your kettle has come to a full boil, turn it off, let the boil subside a minute, then pour the hot water over the ground coffee in the French press. Pour in a circular motion; so that all of the coffee is equally blessed by the water. Pour the water up to the top band of the French press. Put your kettle back on the stove top, then, with another spoon, wooden or bamboo, again specifically dedicated to this purpose, stir the ground coffee in the freshly boiled water. The stirring is crucial. It should be deliberate, methodical. I count nine rotations of the spoon. Rinse your spoon in warm water, and put it away. Having granted the coffee a few minutes to foam a bit at the top of the press, place the top on the press, but do not compress the plunger. Give the a coffee a few more minutes to brew as it were. I do not time this interval with a clock, but with a feel, as if I were feeling the pulse of the press in its embrace of the coffee. It is like the hug of a close friend in greeting. Your affection should be felt. When the time is right, press down gently, lovingly, as if squeezing fondly the arm or the thigh of one you hold dear. 

While the coffee fully infuses the water, prepare your cup, or cups, if you are not alone. Your cups, or mugs, should be hand-thrown ceramic cups. They should not be mass-manufactured china. They should not be labelled in any way. I suggest you name your special cup as well, as you will be using that very cup every morning for your ritual. You must choose a third spoon, a teaspoon, with a long handle, again, a spoon that you will use every day, for your sugar, which must be raw, preferably muscovado. A standard coffee mug will require one to two heaping teaspoonfuls of sugar. Your coffee will be strong; so you will need the sugar. Again, that sugar must be raw. No other sweetener is allowed. Anything and everything artificial is banned from this ritual.

Your coffee is now ready; your milk, too. Pour the coffee into you cup or mug, cups or mugs, filling them two-thirds of the way up. The final third is for the heated milk. Before you pour the milk, remove the film from the top of the little pitcher with your fingertips. Be careful not to burn yourself picking up the pitcher out of the boiling water of the small pot. Pour the milk into the cup or cups. The colour should be a perfect café-au-lait colour, not too dark and not too light. I ensure that mine is the colour of the natural, native complexion of South Pacific Islanders, in Tagalog, morena, or kayumanggi. My wife, with and for whom I prepare coffee every morning, is Filipina; so I only have to behold her resplendence to prepare the perfect cup of coffee. Stir with your sugar spoon. Stir with reverence. Your coffee is now ready to savour.

Perhaps you have prepared toast and jam to accompany your coffee. I strongly suggest some artisan bread that you slice yourself, authentically churned butter, and French preserves. Cold cereal should be avoided. If you are fortunate enough to be accompanied by a spouse or partner, call him or her to the table. Face one another. The television is not on. The radio is not on. You are not listening to the news, or the weather, or the traffic. If you are alone, contemplate the day, as you sip your coffee. If you have company, look at one another, talk, revel in the wonder of those moments over that coffee.

When you are done, end the ritual with a thought of gratitude, a word of gratitude.

Once this ritual is begun, you must never again place your special spoons, your cups or mugs, or any part of your French press in the dishwasher. It is important to wash all of these items by hand, and to use them only for this ritual. When washed and dried, before carrying on with the remainder of your day, put away, to rest, as it were, all elements or objects used in the performance of the ritual.

 As your day progresses, you will think back fondly on the ritual that began it. A mindless routine has been altered into a meaningful ceremony of initiation.

In my life, rather than being compelled by habit, oppressed by routine, even as a leaf floating, effortlessly drifting on the surface of water, caressed by the gentle current below, as if a breath divine, my life is navigated by ritual.