I’ve logged more experience than most with simplicity and the complexity you discover inside simplicity, minimalism and asocial behavior, endurance and landscape.
Here is the truth: I think some deep wisdom inside me (a) sensed the stress, (b) was terrified for me, and (c) gave me something new and hard to focus on in order to prevent me from lapsing into a despair coma — and also to keep me from having a jelly jar of wine in my hand.
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With snow falling on blue spruce and a cardinal at the feeder and the fireplace’s crackly warmth easing into your bones and the final pages of a book about bears and the opening pages of a book about monks and no plans for the morning, the afternoon, the evening, tomorrow, next week, the rest of your life.
With ancient mountains all around and an ancient mountain beneath you and the climb still burning your legs and clouds building on the horizon, a storm coming for sure, but you’ve got time, you and your best friend, plenty of time to fire up the stove and brew a strong pot and trade sips back and forth while two golden eagles circle, circle, circle the summit, never once flapping their wings.
With a frisky dog straining against the leash and then released from the leash and then running frisky-wild, frisky-free, high on the caffeine that is canine living, that is a meadow of tall grass rich with smells and muck and perfect spots for rolling.
With the tray table lowered and the flight attendant offering refills and the plane oddly empty, nobody in your row, nobody between you and that thirty-thousand-foot view of twisty rivers, lumpy hills, entire watersheds, the earth just going and going and going, no end in sight.
With a wee splash of whiskey after an incredibly long weekend of whiskey and maybe some nature documentaries on the TV, maybe a greasy egg sandwich, certainly a headache, a rock-splitting headache, definitely the couch.
With bare feet in cool sand and the surf whispering along the beach and five gray whales spouting in the distance where many thousands of tiny silver fish turn as one, flash as one in the ocean that comes up around your ankles, your shins, your knees, then pulls back into the immensity of itself.
With tired, bearded men in a desert truck stop at midnight and then on out to your old trusty car and down the old lonely road, basins and ranges, ranges and basins, the radio off because it’s broken, the pedal pressed, the tires whumping, the sky without stars, a bottomless cup, so black, so black, no cream, no sugar.
I read Leath Tonino’s essay “Ways to Take Your Coffee” [March 2019] three times: The first time, I didn’t really pay attention to the title. (Each paragraph, a beautiful vignette, beckoned me to dig deeper.) The second time, I read the title and said, “Of course!” The third time, I appreciated the memories in each paragraph: the solitude, the splash of whiskey, a hint of sadness — and the cup of coffee, “black, so black, no cream, no sugar.”