“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” ~ Joseph Campbell.
I don’t know when I started to drink coffee. In my childhood (born in England), tea was naturally the first choice. It is introduced to children in a form more milk than tea, poured into a saucer to cool faster, sweetened with sugar. Of course, if you grow up in Jamaica, the word tea has to be conditioned by an adjective: coffee tea? Cocoa tea? Or green tea? Or of course, any one of a variety of bush tea depending on the ailment, the preventative required, or the time of year when a ‘good wash out’ is called for.
Anyone who visits or lives in England for any period of time comes to understand that a cup of tea is an invitation to a ritual, a pause in the day to sit a while. There was the old-fashioned way to brew a pot of tea which required the pot to be warmed up with a swill of hot water first, so that the cold ceramic would not cool down the boiling water too fast. Tea leaves would be shared out with a special spoon – broad and flat, and could be made weak or strong to taste. But don’t let it sit too long and become ‘stewed’! I once heard an Indian friend of mine describe the way tea is made in India. If I remember correctly, they boil milk to make it, then pour the milk from one jug to another, from a great height, to create a foamy mix of milky tea.
There were other hot drinks in my childhood of course. Hot cocoa was perfect for a cold winter’s night. Or Horlicks. That was special as it required a special mixing device, a glass cylinder embossed with the brand name on the side; metal plunger used to mix the powder more thoroughly into the mix. I can hear the sound it made even now. Plunging up and down quickly helped to create a froth on the top – a special treat. Of course, nowadays there are complex shiny machines to create lattes with frothy crowns and special designs.
It was almost an act of rebellion to prefer coffee to tea in my teenage years. It became my staple, even though as a student living in England it was usually instant coffee that I drank. Coming to the US my first coffee maker was an electric percolator, water bubbling up the central pipe in that gurgling, sputtering sound. What an advance! I drank several cups of coffee a day for most of my adult life, except for a short period when I decided I needed to give it up. That lasted only until a young friend of mine died unexpectedly, and I was reminded that life may be too fragile to give up simple pleasures.
My coffee makers evolved from percolators, through French Presses, to filter coffee machines, with an occasional espresso maker thrown in for good measure. Anyone traveling from Jamaica knew they could pick up a pack of Blue Mountain coffee for me and I was ecstatic. So it was very strange to me to find that, after a bout of Covid, I could no longer drink coffee. It has been six months now, and even though I have had a sip here and there, I do not like the taste.
Over three years ago I stopped eating meat, and have not missed it either. I went fully plant based at first, but after some health issues I decided to add fish back into the mix, and have done so ever since. That has made me wonder if I have other habits that I could give up and not miss? Procrastination is an example, one that is an unhealthy habit that often prevents me from moving forward.
Carl Jung wrote of our shadow side, that part of our psyche that we are ashamed of. He wrote that if we are to be healthy we need to acknowledge and embrace our shadow side, accepting it as part of the whole. I have often told nursing students that sometimes the most important thing that you can learn while in nursing school is to learn about yourself. It may be that we find we are smarter, braver, more resilient than we thought we were. Or what is harder, we discover we not as clever, not as compassionate, not as patient as we need to be. But we cannot begin to grow unless we confront ourselves, accept our limitations and our abilities, and be open to life’s lessons.
For those who are wondering, I have replaced my coffee habit with tea again, returning to my roots perhaps? But isn’t it ironic that the British staple was imported from its colony India. Too much to write about in one Friday morning message, but the evidence of the arrogance of the British Empire never fails to astound.
Whatever your hot beverage of choice, the act of making and holding a steaming hot cup of anything is almost ritualistic. It may be the first cup of the day, the aroma helping to steady you and prepare you for whatever the day brings. It could be the last cup of the day, taken before bedtime as you wind down. It could be taken as an act of meditation, being mindful of the flavor, the history, the tradition, the Zen of tea-making. Or it could be a communal meeting with friends, conversing over a cup of joe. These simple acts connect us to each other, and to our ancestors before us.
This Friday morning I hope you find a moment in your busy day to reflect on those things that are important to you, and celebrate them. Even the mundane can become sacred, if treated with respect and dignity. Have a wonderful weekend, Family!
How strange that you can no longer drink coffee, post-COVID. Like you I was brought up on tea, and recently we have become hooked on chai (well, ever since my visit to a spice garden in Sri Lanka!) But like you I grew up on tea. When I was recovering from surgery recently, my dear sister visited and made me regular cups of tea – I am sure it helped a lot!
Ah – the curative powers of a cuppa!!