The Mug

He backed his truck into the spot he’d unofficially claimed as his many years ago at his place of work, turned off the engine and took a deep breath, maybe it was a sigh, and then collected his things and hopped out into the early morning drizzle. He had his lunch pail and when he grabbed his ‘ol coffee thermos and kicked the door shut behind him, his fingers slipped and his mug, this bare metal mug, its bottom wrapped in duct tape, with all its dents and dings has been there for him every single morning; Monday through Friday for the last many years fell from his grasp.

The world seemed to slow down in that instant, the rain fell silently, slowly, his gaze dropped and he fumbled with his lunch pail and his phone but just couldn’t get there before his mug hit the curb. As the sun seemed to pause for him while it peeked over the horizon, shards of light spewing through the mist and reflecting off of the sidewalk he watched in horror as the twist on top shattered into pieces, the mug bouncing and spinning, spitting coffee from a crack at its base, he knew this was its final abuse, its last trip and in its final dramatic moments, it spun like a top on its side before finally resting in the wet grass.

He stood for a moment, glaring at it and when he picked it up, it was covered in freshly cut grass, grit from the sidewalk and a shallow film of coffee as it dribbled down its side and over the back of his hand. He stood there, his chest tight, his mind awash in memories like the time it fell from his motorcycle and rolled down the highway and into the ditch halfway to Kentucky on a trip with his brother. It was always a survivor, it always kept him a hot, freshly brewed mug and when he sat down at work and readied his self for the day he could always rely on the roasted beans and its clean, velvety flavor he could only get from his percolator.

He walked into his place of business, he felt hollow, he didn’t say hi to Deb in finance on his way by, he didn’t knock on his friend Paul’s cubicle as he passed and when he sat at his desk he set the remnants of his ol pal on the desk in front of him and gazed at it, reflected in memories spanning years, through hot summer days and cold, snowy mornings. Like the blood of a sacrificed cow in the Philippines he drained what coffee was left through the crack at its base into an old company cup he’d had stashed away in his desk. There it was, in all of its dark, nutty presence, as a single swirl of steam furled from its russet surface rising above the rim and dissipating into the office air, was the final swig of what would be the last from this mug. Like so many losses we suffer through in life, this too shall lead to other freshly brewed adventures.

So long my old friend, take heed in your well deserved rest, your service has been recognized and celebrated.

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A Morning in Jasper

The tall, scrawny pines sheltered me from the cool morning breeze as I fired up my small camp stove and made some coffee, the smell of the instant grounds aroused my sleepy senses.

The tops of the snow covered mountains were hidden, obscured by clouds and as I scanned above the tree line across the rocky, glacier carved crags the mist turned into a light, fine rain.

It was seven thirty in the morning and already the sun was up somewhere outside of the valley where we’d camped. I love the early mornings afield, the smell of the fresh grasses and pine needles covered in dew, crispness in the air that awakens the mind and a humbling feeling that explorers who’d come this way long before me must have felt as though they had stumbled into a strange, wonderful sort of paradise.

As I try and sip from my favorite camp mug without burning my lips I notice the rain fading, and suddenly a female and a juvenile elk step out from the trees and into the clearing whose edge I am standing at. They are gorgeous, their coats wet and tawny. They both graze for a bit and finally lay down among the grass just fifty yards from where I stand.

At that moment, as the clouds began to lift exposing the snow capped mountain tops I am stunned by the arrival of a bull elk, his shoulders black, his antlers fat with velvet, he steps out onto the plain and bugles as he postures himself. He is regal, majestic and he is bold and I am in awe of his beauty.

There are no pictures that can relay the splendor of this land, no words that by themselves illuminate the imagery that paints one’s soul by experiencing it, but simply being here, standing among the spiritual essence of this place is purely magnificent.