Only the Coffee Counted

"'Bring on the lions!' I cried.

"But there were no lions. I spent every day in the company of one dog and one cat whose every gesture emphasized that this was a day throughout whose duration intelligent creatures intended to sleep. I would have to crank myself up.

"To crank myself up, I stood on a jack and ran myself up. I tightened myself like a bolt. I inserted myself in a vise clamp and wound the handle until the pressure built. I drank coffee in titrated doses. It was a tricky business, requiring the finely tuned judgement of a skilled anesthesiologist. There was a tiny range within which coffee was effective, short of which it was useless, and beyond which, fatal.

"I pointed myself, I walked to the water. I played the hateful recorder, washed dishes, drank coffee, stood on a beach log, watched a bird. That was the first part; it could take all morning, or all month. Only the coffee counted, and I knew it. It was boiled Columbian coffee: raw grounds brought just to boiling in cold water and stirred. Now I smoked a cigarette or two and read what I wrote yesterday. What I wrote yesterday needed to be slowed down. I inserted words in one sentence and hazarded a new sentence. At once I noticed that I was writing -- which, as the novelist Friedrich Buechner noted, called for a break, if not a celebration."

-- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life