Thursday, January 3, 2013

Timelessness to Inscription: The Creative Pursuit

"How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death."

I say this to my ounce or 2 of espresso.  I roasted those little beans until they were oily and when I get to have a quick sip first thing in the morning.  Mmmm.

This all started when I was a barista at Starbucks in 2005.  I was unemployed and somehow convinced the manager that I had what it took to be a barista.  With all the responsibilities, drinks to memorize, floors to clean, display cases to keep stocked with fresh pastries, coffee to rotate, and smiles + stories to share, I ended up learning to love black coffee and the lowly straight shot of espresso.

I never had tasted black coffee before Starbucks and figured black coffee drinkers enjoyed bitter beverages and growing hair on their chest.  Unfortunately, this was a requirement for all barista's.  You had to taste the roasts of the month and jot down the first three flavors in a notebook.

Some of the coffees tasted were from Indonesia, South America, and Africa.  Other coffees of the world were samples as well but these first three regions really help me understand the coffees I loved the most.  South American Coffee was a light to medium roast and seemed appropriate for the morning or those who liked very little bitterness.  Coffees from Indonesia always seemed smoky... kind of like Lapsang Souchung tea.  My favorite was always the big bold African coffees because there would always be this mysterious fruit flavor.  I remember tasting lemons in my coffee when I tried the Ethiopian Sidamo.

By the time I figured out how to churn out a decent shot on the older machines (new machines automatically brew espresso in the same way) I fell in love with espresso shots.  Starbucks recommended waiting 18-24 seconds brew time for an espresso shot.  The distinct layers (crema, body, and heart) got me every time.  The shot starts out mostly crema and body, but as soon as the heart forms every sip has a bit of each layer in it.  the crema shields the heat as the body delivers the flavor and heart gives the shot its strength.

I say all this about espresso shots to say the creative endeavor, much like the Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem I quoted can be long and arduous.  It will take so much of us we crumble under exhausting.  We search so many avenues, write and rewrite, tweak variables in families of formulas, that we literally collapse.
But finding a solution, in my case, finding my favorite beverages made from the coffee bean, can be a pleasant and ever rewarding success.

This creative exhaustion from is truly good reason to be fatigued.  It's the stuff wonderful stories are made of.  You can ride on others work for a time, but creativity will take you to new places in the real world.  Give you your own stories of the ways you tackled a problem and if you follow the inspired energy through with creativity you will be more creative and have something to show for it.  Often many things to show and this effort turns out to provide you with skills valuable in any future endeavor.

The variety coming from the creative approach sometimes is best when we are forced to reduce our choices.  Sometimes it is the lack of choice, bad experience, or life struggle that serves as a backdrop for us to add our piece and find others who are alive in the same process.