Thursday, December 29, 2016

One hundred cups of coffee

It's been raining through the afternoon and even now I can hear the wind rush through the streets as it makes its way to or from the sea, carrying with it the varying moods of the New England winter. My landlady, Vera, told me this old regional joke: "If you don't like the weather in New England, well--just wait a minute!" And each of us travelers must discover the import of that in the gloves and scarves we carry in our bags and refrain from discarding too early, or, for that matter, putting away our short sleeves and sandals before the leaves turn, just because the calendar has announced the advent of cooler weather.

I've been packing all day--make that two "all days". Stuffing things I can't bear to leave behind and things that seem to have grown arms and legs and girth. Books that probably would have cost me less to buy on Amazon and delivered to India than to box and ship--clearly, sales at the Harvard Bookstore Warehouse do not carry a warning sign on bargains (they should have said--"THESE BOOKS HAVE WEIGHT AND DO NOT TRAVEL ACROSS SEAS LIGHTLY OR CHEAPLY!"). I tell myself that books are priceless anyway, and if I've saved them from being left on the shelf, un-bought and probably in the long term, pulped, well, then I owe it to them to take them with me.

So the books have been boxed and the suitcases have been stuffed, and I am sitting here feeling somewhat in limbo. Goodbyes have been said and notes put away for future reference. As I rummage around the corner of my living room known as the kitchen, wondering if I should take the trouble to cook something that will get left over or just snack on an apple and a tub of yoghurt, I pick up the box of coffee filters to check how many are left.

There's just one.

Just enough for my last cup of coffee tomorrow morning.

I've been through several cartons of milk/half-and-half, and a few pounds of coffee grounds, but I haven't had to buy another box of filters.

It's like Trader Joe's had it perfectly packaged for my stay here, taking into the reckoning absences from Boston, and accounting for all the rest.

We often have the impulse to take stock, to tote up our gains and losses and see how far we have traveled between then and now. Four and a half months is not a long time by most standards, and, like most experiences, it seems long in the living and short in the recalling. I've had plenty of time to read, reflect, weigh new ideas and discard some old ones, look out windows of libraries and walk under the gold and russet leaves of oaks and maples, and just think, and be, without the disciplining frame of a routine. So here's my tally:

20 blog posts
8 interviews
4 presentations
2 articles
1 course audited
...and countless enriching conversations

And yes, 100 cups of coffee (not counting the ones served up by Starbucks and Peet's and the like).

When I open up that brown box tomorrow to take out that last paper filter, it will seem so final, so...over. Maybe that's why I haven't been able to pull myself away from the desk, or this uncomfortable chair on which I have sat typing one post after another, looking out the window where the old church stands solidly in the light of a single street lamp. I realize that while I've been thinking, the rain has stopped and the wetness on the road has turned into a slick, shiny layer of ice.

Less than a day before the New England iciness yields to the mild Hyderabad air.

Less than a day before my coffee comes strong and thick and aromatic, dripping through the perforations of my south Indian steel filter.


Sumana Kasturi said...

What a lovely ode to the end of your New England sojourn! See you soon!

vinod pavarala said...

Welcome back to countless Ramu's chais!