I woke up early December 10th to a dark twelve-degree morning. Before my thoughts turned to the present, I remembered how bright the moon was during the night and recalled, ever so briefly, the tail end of a vivid, colorful dream.
Sadly, mundane thoughts of the new day chased my dream away and it is now lost forever. What was more important than my dream? My regret at not cutting firewood the day before when it was warm.
Cold dominated my thoughts. I thought of where to find my chopper mittens, my cold weather hat (a Stormy Kromer), and a warmer scarf. At the same time, I imagined keeping the cold chill of the shack off my coffee. It’s one small room heated by a small wood stove. Sunrise is a treat in the shack because it has an east facing glass wall overlooking a deep ravine. I didn’t want to miss the show, but it was going to be damned cold during the first twenty minutes of my arrival.
I put bread in the toaster, got apple butter from the fridge, and poured myself a glass of milk.
I ground dark roast coffee beans, filled the basket of a small stovetop Bialetti coffee maker, put it on a burner, and lit the gas. Espresso would soon begin brewing in that odd upside-down machine. I looked for my thermos, but it was nowhere to be found. Then I remembered. I could see it plain as day sitting in the shack on my desk where I’d left it the day before. I hate it when that happens. It creates a rough spot in an otherwise smooth morning.
I found my coat and warm weather hat where I had left them and headed out the back door. It’s a quick trip to the shack and back. The stainless-steel thermos, right where I thought it would be, was freezing. So was my hand holding it as I carried it back to the house.
The espresso would be piping hot. Putting it in an ice-cold thermos would defeat the purpose, so I microwaved a big tumbler of water (hot water takes forever to make the trip from the basement water heater to our kitchen faucet).
As the microwave whirred and did its mysterious thing to the water, the Bialetti began to burble. So that it would not boil and make the fresh brew bitter, I turned the burner off. Next, I poured the now hot water from the tumbler into the thermos to warm it so it wouldn’t draw heat from the espresso.
I waited. While I did, I had breakfast and worked on the Chicago Tribune crossword puzzle.
Sometime after the answer to the clue for 50 across “The Good Earth mother” leapt magically into my brain (Olan), it dawned on me (pun intended) that I was playing a zero-sum game. As my thermos was warming up, my espresso was cooling down. Success sometimes seems impossible.
What was the optimum time to end those opposite dynamics of cooling and warming for the hottest possible coffee? I wasn’t going to know with any certainty, and I damned well wasn’t going to waste more time thinking about it.
I found my Stormy Kromer hat on the opposite end of a shelf where my chopper mittens were hiding. I found the wool scarf I pictured on a hanger in the closet where it I thought it would be. I went back to the kitchen. There I dumped the hot water from the thermos, poured in the espresso, and added two sugar cubes. After putting on my newly assembled cold weather gear, I headed back through the cold, hot coffee in hand, to the shack and the coming dawn.
It was time to put an end to those mundane thoughts and get on with my day. There’s only so much fooling around you should do before beginning to write.