The ritualistic act of making coffee has become something sacred. Something to revere, a habitual series of steps carried out with care and intention, to be treated with utmost honor. If you treat the coffee well, the coffee will treat you well.
In the home of Neighbor Nate, the sanctity of this morning ritual is known. It is established. It is a process that is never interfered with. There is respect. And honor. And the result is the smoothest, strongest cup of coffee, carrying magical powers that revive and recharge the soul, preparing the recipient for any of the horrors the day might bring. It is a source of invincibility.
The woman understands and respects the sanctity of the process. She has learned the ways of the coffee gods, and is trusted to prepare the morning beverage of revival. There is harmony and unity within the process. It is believed by many that if God himself came to brunch, he would look at it all and declare, “it is very good.”
After seven and a half years of perfecting the world’s most imperative beverage, no one saw the curveball coming.
Yet it still came.
One morning the woman had made coffee before Neighbor Nate rose from his deep slumber. Not long after the scent of the rising sun (the coffee is also what causes the sun to rise) wafted its way through the house, Neighbor Nate joined the woman in the kitchen. He quickly retreated to his favorite chair and grumbled at the woman as she packed her lunch for the day. All of the sudden, with no warning at all, Neighbor Nate, as if he sprouted wings, flew into the kitchen and landed right next to the coffee. Startled, The Woman froze, unsure of what was happening, or what the appropriate response to the unexpected surge of energy was.
“YOU MUST SWADDLE THE COFFEE!” roared Neighbor Nate.
The Woman had no idea what that could possibly mean. “Um, what?” she asked.
“You MUST swaddle the coffee,” he stated again. He grabbed a kitchen towel, and draped it over the coffee carafe. He wrapped it carefully, ensuring no piece of glass was exposed to the room air. The coffee is brewed each day in a glass, hour-glass shaped carafe, using the pour over method, which means that once it is brewed, if not consumed quickly, the coffee is quick to become lukewarm.
“What on earth are you talking about?” the woman asked, still entirely confused.
“It will get cold! You must swaddle the coffee!” he stormed back to his chair, apparently satisfied with how the coffee was now being swaddled.
The Woman was no less confused now than she was when he first took flight. Swaddle the coffee? Where did this come from? Surely this was a fluke. The ritual had been perfected. There was no room for changes in the process, and no reason to institute new demands. She continued on with her morning, soon forgetting about the confusing outburst.
A few days later, The Woman again found herself partaking in the sacred ritual of caffeination, once again before Neighbor Nate had graced the universe with his occasionally overwhelming presence. Eventually Neighbor Nate arose and wandered into the kitchen. The Woman was on the other end of the house when all of the sudden she heard the beginning of another outburst.
“YOU MUST SWADDLE THE COFFEE!!!”
Again? This was going to be a real thing? This wasn’t just a passing comment in a moment of un-caffeinated confusion from a few mornings ago? This was real life?
The Woman made her way to the kitchen just in time to see a series of tornado like movements, as Neighbor Nate flurried throughout the kitchen, clearly looking for something that wasn’t in his direct line of sight. Eventually the mad twirling subsided, and Neighbor Nate was firmly swaddling the coffee carafe in a towel. Neighbor Nate was breathing heavily. His robe had come untied and was flapping in the wake of his movements. His hair was unruly, and his beard had not yet been tamed for the day. The woman just watched, suspiciously, waiting.
“Honey. You have to swaddle the coffee or it will get cold.” His words were solid, firm, not up for debate. If the prior act of making coffee were to be illustrated as a giant oak tree, this new addition to the process would be the deepening of a very complex root system, intertwining with the previously established anchors that allow for such a majestic being. They were not suggestions, they were the new truth, the new reality. There was to be no discussion, there was only to be a new implementation of this new expectation.
Several days later, The Woman caught herself as she was walking away from the quickly cooling coffee. I must swaddle the coffee, she remembered. The Woman grabbed a kitchen towel and draped it over the carafe, proud of herself for remembering, and a little conflicted by the idea of needing to swaddle the coffee. This feels ridiculous, she thought.
She met Neighbor Nate in the kitchen to see his reaction to her having remembered the new addition to the process. She quietly waited, watching his every move. He grabbed his favorite mug out of the cupboard. He grumbled as he set it on the counter so he could adjust and tighten his fuzzy blue robe. His back was to the coffee. He picked up his mug, still adjusting his robe with one hand, and turned to face the coffee.
There was a pause. A moment of contemplation. Or was it confusion? The moment lingered longer than what was ideal.
“What kind of shameful, pathetic excuse of a swaddle is this?” he sputtered. His arms began waving. The mug was now on the counter, so both arms could flail effectively. He was waving his hands over the apparently shameful excuse of a swaddle. “What the…how? Why? What were you thinking? You call this a swaddle? Have I taught you nothing? How is this…what the…FOR SHAME!” His words were mere sputters, but gradually getting louder. The dogs had wandered into the kitchen to watch the scene unfold. Gibbs tilted his head to one side, trying to interpret his master’s behavior. He grabbed the towel off the coffee and threw it across the kitchen. “FOR SHAME!” he again cried in indignation.
The Woman could remain silent no longer. “I swaddled the coffee! Why are you freaking out? What on earth did I do wrong?”
“You call this a swaddle? This is not a swaddle! Half of the coffee pot was EXPOSED! This was a mere drape! This was not a swaddle! THIS IS A SWADDLE!” leaving the original towel on the other side of the kitchen where he had thrown it, Neighbor Nate selected the thickest, fluffiest towel he could find, draped it over the coffee, and wrapped the carafe with the towel. He was careful to tuck and fold the towel as necessary, protecting it from any potential exterior harm. His movements were over exaggerated, clearly for the point of emphasis.
The Woman watched the ridiculous scene before her, unable to even fully process her new reality.
Seven years of making coffee, and suddenly, the process that had been perfected, sacred, revered, treated with the utmost respect, was no longer adequate. The coffee must now be swaddled, like a helpless little babe.
How did this come to be? Did it even matter? Was asking such questions even worth the effort?
The scene before her came to an end as Neighbor Nate un-swaddled the coffee, poured himself a cup, re-swaddled the coffee with the same exaggerated movements, and stomped out of the kitchen. The thunder of his footsteps gradually softened, and she could tell he was retreating to the bedroom so he could drink his coffee in peace – his coffee, which was probably now 2 degrees colder than preferred, due to her inadequate swaddling practices.
This was a battle The Woman resolved not to question. She would save her energy for matters of greater importance, as god knows would be soon to come. And, after all, it was crazy passionate outbursts such as these that were some of the things she loved most about her bearded Neighbor Nate. And, if it kept the coffee a little warmer a little longer, perhaps the swaddle wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Strange and ridiculous, for sure. But certainly not the worst.