Have you ever listened to Typeradio? Unless your idea of audio entertainment includes graphic design/typography nerdery, I expect you haven't.
One of the first questions for guests on the long-running (since 2004!) interview series is, 'Do you have rituals?' I enjoy hearing different people's interpretations of the word 'ritual' — religious rituals, habits, superstitions, meditations, conscious practice, and others.
I — we — moved overseas last year. We packed up our possessions and sent them away on a boat, got on a plane and flew 9000km to make our home in a different country. The chaos of tearing down the blocks of our lives in one place, followed by the trial and error of re-stacking those blocks in a new place, while adjusting to a new culture, with different people, different practices and different ideas of how things should be done, made for a turbulent time. For a full year, no routine lasted more than a few weeks before making way for new circumstances and new constraints. The only thing we could depend on was change.
I make my coffee in the morning. Not with a machine, no. I do it the long, hard, stupid way, weighing out beans, adjusting the grinder, timing the extraction, controlling the pour. This rehearsed dance plays out at my kitchen counter in a painstaking ceremony, following which I sit down, inhale the aroma, and take my first sip. I swirl the brew around in my mouth, teasing out the flavours, seeking the fruity acidic sweetness I so love, noting how it develops with each sip as the coffee cools down.
None of this would make sense if I were doing it for the caffeine. There are quicker and cheaper routes to the chemical stimulation. I don't scald my tongue on gulped-down mouthfuls, thank you very much. I sip my coffee, like a gentleman, and savour the experience.
But it's not only about the delicious cup at the end of all the measuring and pouring and waiting. That ceremony is a ritual, familiar enough to pull off in the groggy pre-dawn haze, challenging enough to keep me focused. It's a form of mindfulness.
As I muddled my way through The Year of Flux, to-do lists took on a hydra-like quality. Each task ticked off spawned multiple new ones snapping for my attention. The endless stream of must-do-now swept away old habits, and I found myself both seeking new practices — meditation offered a daily moment of silence — and reviving old ones — I re-read some of my favourite books for the first time in years.
Some days I tell myself it's good for my health or sanity. I might even attribute it some power or charm it'll bestow on my day. For the ten minutes I concentrate on brewing my coffee, I know what to do and how to do it. The outcome is of no consequence beyond the last sip, but there's comfort in that.
The turn of the year was timed just right for closing off the time of upheaval. We have some way to go, but the hardest parts of the move are behind us. We're ready for some stability, even a little boredom, as we get on with settling down. We're learning new routines. I'm still struggling to revive some old ones — I miss running — but I can always depend on my coffee ritual.