Monday, May 12, 2008

The Spirituality of Coffee Grinds

Pesky coffee grinds have it in for me. They tempt my serenity on a daily basis. Each morning they gather, conspire and drive me crazy as they scatter and stain our white kitchen counter-top. The espresso machine that sits atop the counter-top is in cahoots with the grinds. Hundreds of loose grinds escape from their metal portafilter basket and prance and dance their defiance. Some, hide under the espresso machine where attempts to remove them can last for days.

These tiny, brown specks of coffee bean byproducts are the bane of my morning caffeine ritual. And yet, they have so much to teach me. After making my double espresso I sit at the kitchen table and try to ignore the grinds that taunt and laugh at me. They know that I can't relax until the counter-top is completely spotless. (Friends have suggested that I capitulate to bagged, decaf green tea.)

If you are like me, organization and cleanliness come before anything else. Of course, there's a price to pay with any exaggerated personality trait. Last week my wife noticed my looks of annoyance every time I glanced at the counter-top and asked, "What would happen if you just let them sit there until we finished our coffee?" She might as well have asked me if I'd mind bathing in someone else's grime filled tub.

"You know, there's something those grinds can teach you." My wife continued.
"Yeah, what's that Mrs. Freud?"
"To allow things to just be as they are. To be completely in the moment not 50% with me and 50% focused on the coffee grinds."
"But they'll stain the counter-top," I replied.
"So what?"

She's right of course. Is it really that important? Of course not. The grinds represent a bigger issue: control. Nothing stays organized and clean forever and I can't control everything and everyone. The grinds, the dust, the queue at the supermarket or post office, it doesn't matter what it is, can teach us to allow things to be just as they are and not to interrupt the flow of life. Do I want my tombstone to read, 'Here lies Bruce Katlin, owner of the cleanest kitchen counter-top in the Western world'? Maybe, as long as it also reads, 'Dedicated husband and friend, helpful to all.'

Nevertheless, I purchased an immersion blender the other day which is completely self-contained. I can now make professional style frappes without one pesky grind of coffee leaping from the blender's plastic container.

Laurence J. Peter said, "A quick rinse of the blade and all is well. Cleaning anything involves making something else dirty, but anything can get dirty without something else getting clean." Okay, I guess...
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