My morning routine starts with coffee. So much so that the ritual begins the night before, when my husband gets the coffee maker ready for my early morning switch-flipping. We’re not fancy with our caffeine at home. Strong coffee is more than sufficient, especially when I can rely on my favorite baristas and coffee connoisseurs for regular doses of the truly spectacular.
It has been a long season at home and we are weathering well enough. Some things remain the same while others keep changing. With my husband laid off from our region’s hospitality industry, homemade cold brew has been fueling work both indoors and out. With my husband’s health insurance also canceled, I have been running our weekly errands. Venturing forth for groceries and wine, dog food and wine, and seeds and starts, and more wine, we are counting the cost of too many things we used to take for granted. It is sobering to be out and about among once-thriving businesses still shuttered. It is heartbreaking to read about those who will never re-open.
The economy rarely sustains my undivided attention, even as its fluctuations and failures play out all around me. Left to my own devices, I choose life and the life-giving over capital systems that demand allegiance in exchange for livelihood both ensured and foreclosed. But if this pandemic teaches nothing else, perhaps it offers this reminder: we need one another. Driving by living-proof of all that will not survive COVID-19’s incursions, I find myself questioning assumptions—both mine and others’— about the nature of things. Not all systems are sui generis. In whose image, then, will we recreate the world? Yours? Mine? Ours?
I have written before about beloved people and places in my circles of consumption. This love letter rings true several months later as I watch my household trying to honor weekly purchases that might shore up a favorite local restaurant or small business. I can name too many ways in which our economic systems reward egregious behaviors, amplifying inequities purchase by purchase. And still, we are doing our damndest to do our part. Is this what being complicit looks like? Can anyone buy their way out of 2020’s mounting impossibilities? What might flourishing look like if we didn’t measure all things in dollars and cents?
Steeped in truth and poured in love, a cup of coffee can return us to one another, nurturing habits of interdependence strong enough to undercut supremacies—all of them. Sometimes, the littlest things point to the deepest truths. I’m still curious about my joy almost-unspeakable at seeing one of our local cafes offering curbside iced coffee on a recent round of errands. I am still surprised at how thirsty I remain for human contact shared face-to-face and heart-to-heart. Holding in my hand a remnant of something freely given, I keep wondering about the relationship between purchase and power, between self and system, between reckoning and revolution.
I am not hoping naively for the return of that which never was. Some things are bigger and deeper and harder than a simple cup of coffee can hold or convey. And still, teachers show up in many forms. Some lessons are daily medicine. I have been thinking a lot lately about questions of sufficiency, especially in the context of a world designed to extract the most from the least. What does enough look like? What does it feel like? And what does it mean to forgo the more than in favor of the enough? In a season when ground truths are shifting daily, I am searching for higher grounds. What to make of the way we see and serve one another? And will we keep counting the cost? Life and livelihood hang in the balance.