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chemex & tulips

© Piotr Skubisz | (image by © Piotr Skubisz |

I used my first chemix coffee maker in Cambridge, MA.  I had rented an apartment on Walker Street, a British-like bed-sit which required a descend down some stairs.  It had access to a garden filled with roses, a lovely landlady, the late Natalie Grow, and in the cupboard, two glass apothecary jars, and a chemix with some filters. It was so beautiful, an oversized hour-glass-shaped glass beaker with a wooden corset , held together by a leather cord with two wooden beads on the end.  The corset must keep in the heat, I reasoned, or help protect the glass.  (Turns out, it was an effective way to protect the hand while pouring.)  It was scientific, aptly named.

I’d never used one before , but it seemed easy to figure out.  Heat water, pour through the chemix lined with paper & filled with ground coffee.  I didn’t rinse the filters first.  That would not have only improved the taste but preheated the coffee contraption.  I can’t remember the coffee I drank in Cambrige, but I remember the Chemex. And I remember Natalie. One of the first bank presidents in the country, and a yogini, she had visited India four times, chramingly bulldozed her way to a Master’s.  At 78, she was radient with energy.

On my move-in day, she kept a vase waiting for me filled with white tulips.

chemex brew from james hoffman

Videocast #3 – Chemex/Pourover from James Hoffmann on Vimeo.

yet the sky

Yet the sky scattered snow at us yesterday, pausing one moment as I filled my gas tank.

Annie Dillard would

Yesterday, there were 43 icicles hanging over my kitchen window.  Imagine a long rectangle that opens like a porthole–that’s my kitchen window.  Today, there are twenty-one, all shapes and sizes.  If I felt glacial, I could watch them drip as the sun warms up.  Why is that only appealing with a cup of coffee in my hand?  Annie Dillard would watch with pen in hand.

There is the compost truck. We have compost, recycle and garbage, but it seems the compost only gets collected every other week.  Every week would make sense.  I remember in New Jersey how one day, all the houses on my parents’ street received large  bright bee pollen yellow recycling containers.  They looked other-wordly, like space containers for nuclear waste.  They’ve yet to incorporate composting, but I know many compost in their yards.  Growing up with Ranger Rick’s Nature Magazines, which I didn’t have the heart to ever stop subscribing until high school, because it was for a cause, I helped my mother make organic bug juice–garlic, red pepper, water–to spray on the tomato plants.  That was then.  

How many icicles now?

Today, another day: one.  Spring’s coming.

the night deposited

The night deposited another half-a-foot of snow, and my neighbor is valiantly shoveling the sidewalk.  There’s a desert–a lemon meringue pie, a blanc mange–what is a blanc mange? –which looks like the snow does now: softly peaked, luscious.  Am I thinking of a baked Alaska?  Why do cafes make those biscuity scones when they could make baked Alaskas? Di makes snow angels on top of her car, a very good idea.  The plow came early, but midway, the plowman (not ploughman) stopped, got out of his cab, and walked down the alley.  Why did he do that?  To tell someone to move a car?  To stretch his legs?  After a while he came back, and continued to plow the street. Now the sun is illuminating the large windows of the house on the corner.  Because it reflects sun and sky, it looks like one of those gold etched tumblers from Russia.  Now the sun is illuminating the bushes.  The lavender is completely covered, and most of the sage. My one rose plant bravely remains.  Will there be roses this summer?  My niece likes to pour maple syrup over snow and make –what would it be?–an Italian Ice?  She likes making snow angels, too.  My second cup of coffee calls.  Is this what Buddhists mean by being in the present moment, recording, noticing what is present?


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