Cups of coffee often come into my memory like old friends walking through the screen door on the back porch, the delightful sound of the “slam” jarring other memory windows open and I say, good morning – have a cup of coffee, just made.

I had spent the night with my dearest friends Dawn and Bob Green down in Luling, Louisiana, and we were sitting in soft chairs looking out to a sloping scene of longleaf pines stretching into the early darkness when he set a cup of his special carefully hand dripped darkroast coffee beside me and we both sipped the dark hot liquid and let it seek its place in the wake-up process. I can not help but think of Bob when I sip that first taste of strong morning coffee. Few people could speak as lovingly about a cup of coffee as he could.

As far back as I can remember, I was offered some coffee with my grandfather as we sat on his back porch next door looking out at the garden he had growing only a few feet away, pregnant with tomatoes, beans, squashes and turnips. My aunt Clara would have made a small pot by hand dripping boiling water over grounds until the little three cup pot was full. Years later we moved on to a percolator and then an electric pot but it wasn’t the same. My cup had enough sugar and milk in it to qualify as a candy bar rather than the stimulant it was intended to be, but I can still savor that sweet coffee aroma as we sat silently together on those old steps.

My day began around 5 AM during those years that I worked at the chemical plants on the river in Baton Rouge. It would begin with me standing before the stove ladling spoonful after spoonful of boiling water over the grounds in that little gooseneck French Drip pot. I would stand there and pour the first small cup (it was always a small cup to preserve the heat) and sip it before moving away from the stove. Only then could I begin my day.

When I was in college in Pineville, Billie and I would often take the children, Kathy and Ricky, when they were about 3 or 4 years old, and let them run around on the paths at Fort Buhlow State Park. We would sit up by a small table with a clear view of the kids and I would boil some water on a small camp stove and then make a little pot of darkroast coffee which we would sip and enjoy as the children played and the evening wore on toward our picnic supper time.

Finally, I was visiting a woman who lived in a shotgun house on the west side river road just above Baton Rouge. The house faced east and in less that a hundred yards was that huge monolith of a levy that held back the Mighty Mississippi. We had coffee on her front porch. I noted how good it was and she said it was the sock. When someone says the coffee is good because of a sock, I have to ask. She smiled and said it was not the foot kind of sock but a small one she made that lined the top of the pot where the coffee grounds were placed. She showed the pot to me and it was the same as the one I used. The unbleached domestic material served as an efficient filter and could be washed between uses. She gave me a couple and I used them thereafter.

There are other cups of darkroast. Just now I am well into my pot sitting in my soft chair looking out the two narrow castle keep windows that show a bifurcated view of he woods behind the house. CA and I enjoy our coffee each morning as we peruse the news and think about the day ahead. There might be other cups today but if not, I have been adequately infused.

Yes, I know, there is also tea, and even Dr. Pepper. It’s just not the same.

ONMONHEGAN for 2015 ended yesterday. Until September 10, 2016, then…

Obviously, I thought about it. While thinking and meditating (an insider’s term for thinking), I decided to continue coming here until I just can’t. Once I fairly breezed over these rough trails where now I am more careful and judicious.

I once read an interview of a well known poet (and here you must forgive me for failing to remember who this well known person is) and the interviewer asked him about his habit of writing a poem a day. “What if”, the questioner said, “you get to the end of the day and you have not come up with the poem for the day?” The poet said, “I lower my standards”.

That’s how I will continue coming to Monhegan. There are some of the more difficult trails that I will not attempt, or if I do I may slither down the more precipitous pitches on my butt. Dignity is highly over estimated. Not up to past standards? Not to worry – the views are the same. And that’s what I come for. Oh, and the thinking, aka – meditation.

And now for the poem for the day:


Looking out to sea
The ocean holds me in her arms
Sunlight glistens on the water
Diamonds Stacked fathoms deep
I see worlds below
The past and the future
I see Leviathan and she sees me
I see the souls of countless seamen
Who await the trumpet’s sound
Or perhaps it is I who waits
Window after window opens
I fall into the depths
Mysteries are revealed
Not always understood
I reach out unconsciously to touch the rock
the rock is there – I am dry


Every time I come out to Monhegan, I end up thinking about things. It could be said that that’s the reason one goes to an island – to think about things.

When people ask me about what we do out on this island, I always answer the same thing: “We walk”. That’s actually the main thing we do even though it takes up only a few hours a day. When I am ashore the memories I have are mostly of the walks we took – the sights and sounds, the emotional impact of the trails. If I say that I go out to Monhegan to think, the rumors about my mental state would be confirmed. So we walk the trails. You’d be surprised at the amount of thinking one can do while walking on uneven terrain. So there it is. Walking is the rationale while thinking runs the show.

The most peculiar thing I think about every time I come out here – and we have been coming out here, with only a couple of exceptions when we had other places to go, for almost twenty years – is that this may be the last time I come to this island. I remember saying that on my first visit. I remember saying, “OK, I have done this. It’s highly likely that I won’t be back”. So you can only be sure of the past, the future’s unknown, you see.

Today was day number four on the trails. My legs think it’s day number fifteen or more. I am tired, achy and my mind is full of the idea that I am getting too old to try the more precipitous trails on this, my favorite place to walk. I don’t like this sort of thinking, but it is thinking and that is what I do out here. Could this be an old person’s disease? I think too much. My mind floats free without a tether in sight.

There’s more on this later, but for now, I want to rest and perhaps read a cool book about Chicago. Maybe even take a nap.

Reading very late inevitably sets up a kind of jet lag deficit that bends the following day into a pretzel-like experience that keeps bending back to that point where taking a nap seems more and more like the elusive Universal Good.

Strong, black darkroast coffee, while not making everything all better now, creates the illusion that life might take a turn for the better sometimes around the middle of the pot, if not later. It is an illusion, of course. The caffeine is real enough, but highly overrated in my opinion. For me, it’s the heat, the flavor, the conjuring of waking memories in pleasant times of morning commiseration.

Quite often, that first sip of infused arabica brings up thoughts of an old Louisiana friend, long taken by Alzheimers, standing over a little three cup French-Drip pot drizzling spoonfuls of boiling water over the grounds. He would serve small cups of this thick brew and we would sip appreciatively and hum satisfying notes in the morning light. The pot wouldn’t last long and if more was needed, more would be made. Even bad coffee is better if fresh. It’s the Cajun way. Small pots made often throughout the day

Cup number three and I think that maybe the caffeine is actually working. Not that I am charged with energy, but that I can actually begin to think about the remaining day and, of course, seeking out the elusive Universal Good.