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Just a Handful of Beans

A handful of Beans

He stood for a moment-a child, alien and lost in the green and soaring gloom of the markless wilderness, then he relinquished completely to it. It was the watch and the compass. Getting rid of the gun wasn’t enough. He was still tainted. He removed the linked chain of the one and the looped thong of the other and hung them on a bush and leaned the stick beside them and entered it.”

William Faulkner The Bear

Every time I read The Bear, in the collection Go Down Moses, by Faulkner, I am reminded of coming of age. The young boy who is only 10, experiences that, to truly participate in life you have to abandon those tools that are mere devices of measurement. The colors, the alphabet, and fractions, — like the gun, the compass and the watch; these elementary things have to be discarded to truly create, to see the bear that no adult has been successful in hunting.

Often, we get so caught up in knowing, we forget to experience. We become so dazzled by the equipment; we forget how to become “caught up” in the enjoyment of the creative moment. We loose, or worse, never experience the pleasure of the simple act of creating something.

In the case of coffee, the tools available to us range from the Slayer Espresso Machine, to the simple hand cranked roaster, and the burning coals of a fire as used in the religious coffee ceremony in Ethiopia. I have been told that both these methods produce satisfying coffee. The fact that I have experienced neither of these extremes will have to be corrected someday, but in the mean time I use them as examples for the idea that no matter what the tools are in the creative process, they are not the focus. Some day I want to arrive at that place where I can sense what the temperature is, what bar of pressure is best or know when four minutes is up without the use of tools.  I don’t think I am writing out of turn when I say that we would all like to be in that place where our creative acts are no longer retarded by awkward and primitive struggles. I want to get beyond paying dues, and doing homework.

So…I find myself on this path to experience pulling the ultimate shot. Up ahead I see the learning curve and the path is steep. I am learning the vocabulary, training my sense of taste, aroma, cupping discipline, roasting, brewing, extracting, and becoming one with my lever pull machine. Some of you will mock and laugh, and already have. Echoing in my memory are the taunts of my friends, “It’s just coffee dude!

To which I reply, “you are right it is just coffee, but come and experience what I can do with this handful of beans.”

© 2009 all rights reserved Pat Riggs


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