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Dharma and Joe

One of the best things about every new day is the morning’s first cup of coffee. Over the years we have developed a pleasing ritual around our morning coffee that has elevated it to a near spiritual experience. The ritual began during my teaching years when Robert would go downstairs after the 5:30 alarm to make the coffee. I’d shower, after which we’d meet back in bed to savor our first cup.

Once I retired from teaching and mornings were significantly less rushed, we began to add a morning reading to our coffee time ritual. On Robert’s side of the bed is a basket containing a rotating stack of Dharma books by a variety of spiritual teachers in and out of the Buddhist tradition. Books by Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Chogyam Trungpa and others. Most consist of short readings, contemplations on developing compassion, practicing meditation, taming the ego. Robert reads, we sip our coffee and respond to the text.

Sometimes the discussion relates directly to the particular teaching; more often we share our personal experiences in dealing with our habitual patterns, resentments, and struggles to accept those whose views and manners differ from our own.

For the last several years, we have bookended the Dharma reading with a poem by Mary Oliver. Her teachings celebrate the natural world and explore our connectedness to all living things. In Oliver’s poems, humans are not the sole keepers of wisdom. Rather, we are challenged to marvel at the cricket’s musical body, the rose’s ability to renew itself. We are reminded to listen to the prayers of the grass.

From our atrium window, the maple, planted when we moved in, reflects the changing seasons. It’s stout branches stand bare against the snow until the reluctant Vermont spring adds its furze of greening buds. In summer it spreads its leaves to cover most of our view, and in fall its bright red and orange leaves never fail to amaze and delight us.

Over the years, this morning ritual has become more than a time to enjoy that first cup of coffee. Sharing those moments of Dharma and Joe bring us closer and set the tone for our day. They remind us to appreciate and be grateful for the ordinary pleasures of this extraordinary life.

To keep our morning ritual from becoming too precious and high-minded, we rely on our Interrupter-in-Chief, Zander, our young goldendoodle. From his post in front on the bedroom’s atrium windows, Constable Zander monitors the morning traffic. Should he spy red tail lights heading down the adjacent driveway, he rears up barking his protests and snorting his indignation at the nerve of these people disturbing the calm of our morning ritual. Don’t they know my Bossy is reading from the Dharma?

But Bossy’s mind is no longer on the Dharma. His equanimity has been shattered and he is leading Constable Zander from the room and, shutting the door, crawling back into bed muttering imprecations.


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