Clayoquot Morning Ritual by Michael Goodliffe

In the early morning, it almost seemed that a layer of steam hung over the camp, providing a symposium of moisture for the insects between us and the mounting warmth of the west-coast sun. Here we were, beneath the insects, muddling our way out of sleep, awakened by the thrill of our shared experience at the Clayoquot Sound Peace Camp. Vanguards in the trenches of the modern environmental movement of 1993, we saw ourselves as a last stand, soldiers here to save the old growth forests we could almost see from the camp. However, clinging to morning rituals from our forsaken urban homes, daybreaks inspired less-than-heroic moments well worth sharing.

The coffee production was always left in Jacob’s hands, despite the unsanitary conditions said hands displayed. We would watch the nicotine stained tips of his fingers pour the ground coffee into the boiling pot of water, hypnotised by the bubbling vacillations of peppered foam that would erupt in the amalgamation. Steamed, long black stringy hair, dangling over the pot, swayed back and forth as Jacob stirred with the intent of an alchemist accomplishing gold. The Native-brown sinews of his forearms then rippled as the pot was removed from the fire, two of Jacob’s well-worn socks used to protect him from the heat of the stainless-steel handles. As the contortions in the water subsided, Jacob peered on, a small bucket of fresh, cold spring water ready at his feet.

Here, Jacob would pause to roll a smoke, stretching the rolling paper to its limit with a dollop of tobacco the size of a small bird’s nest. Shifting from side to side, he would scuffle throughout the myriad of pockets in his vest, shirt and pants looking for a light, oblivious or resentful of the matches offered to him. Finally, a match, wrapped in a bit of tissue would be produced. A grin that exposed a nicotine-stained tooth, matching his fingertips would ensue. After lighting the match on a stick snatched from the fire, Jacob would ignite his cigarette and silently pause to reflect on the situation in the pot in front of him. Leaning over it, the ash from the tip of his rolled cigarette would drop down, muddying the surface of the concoction.

“It’s ready.” He would proclaim.

The crowd of onlookers would then move in closer, each with a dirty cup in hand, well seasoned after weeks of this reoccurring ritual. Jacob would then lift the bucket of spring water, his smoke attached to his lip, and very carefully pour increments of cold water into four adjacent positions of the pot. As the cold water mixed with the hot, the remnants of coffee grounds, huddling in the foamy substance on the surface, would sink out of sight.
One cup at a time would be passed to Jacob. With each cup he would skim the surface of the pot, produce a three-quarter full cup and ask:


“Yes, please.”

Another unfurled package that had been produced along with the tobacco would then be opened and a spoon would carve a small chunk of hardened brown substance off and it would be dropped into the cup. There was no stirring involved on Jacob’s part. Each person reserved or shared a stick for that closing procedure.

One by one, each cup would be filled and filled again, until laughter and conversation burned off the surrounding morning mist. Those that slept in missed out on Jacob’s ritual and had to fend for themselves if they required caffeine upon awakening. They really had missed out. That was the best cup of coffee I have ever had the good fortune to drink.

Michael Goodliffe is currently completing a double major in International Relations and English Literature at the University Of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He was raised by a pack of wild hippies on the prairies of Manitoba and has spent his life making mistakes, learning from them and correcting them as best he can.