Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Kettle Boils

I enter my kitchen at quarter past seven and glide barefoot across cool, travertine tiles. My goal is simple - make a pot of perfectly brewed coffee.

Because the packaging says DO NOT REFRIGERATE, I keep my coffee in a hand-painted, terra-cotta canister that rests an arms length away from my copper tea kettle. I love that kettle but it’s hard to keep clean.

I fill my lovely, copper kettle with cold, filtered water. I scoop 5 mounds of freshly ground coffee into a sleek, stainless steel, french press. I add a pinch or two of cinnamon. I wait for the kettle to boil.

Miss Phoebe, my spoiled, tuxedo cat, watches - just as she always does. Today, she is clearly annoyed. She meows and meows and rubs herself against me. I understand this, not so, cryptic message. Her yellow, egg-shaped bowl is empty. She wants HER food - tiny, morsels of catchow that wait for her each morning.

"It's that time of the year," I remind her. Steamy days, so wicked those pesky, little brown ants seek relief inside. You can't leave food out. Not even CAT food. If you do, those pesky, little brown ants will fester and flourish till mid October.

Miss Phoebe is accustomed to eating on demand and she's pissed, really pissed, because her yellow, egg-shaped bowl is empty. Not half full, but empty. And washed clean. No smells, no crumbs. Just shiny, clean yellow.

The kettle boils. I fill the french press three quarters of the way, then warm three quarters of a cup of skim milk in the microwave. I beat the warm milk with my nifty little, handheld frother - my favorite kitchen gadget.

The kitchen smells so good.

I pour my first cup of perfectly brewed coffee and stir in a teaspoon of brown, raw sugar. I top it off with several dollops of richly lathered milk.

It is delicious.

I sit on the cool kitchen tiles, sip my coffee, and toss treats - one by one - to Miss Phoebe. Sometimes I make her do tricks - "sit" "sit up" and "fetch." Mostly, I just let her have them. 

I'm hungry. I wait to see if the coffee fills me. When it doesn't, I open the cabinet in search of my harvest nut mix. I pop the plastic lid open, grab a handful and toss it into my mouth. I chew it slowly, hoping it will satisfy me.

It doesn't. I take another handful. Chew it slowly. Swallow.

I study my harvest nut mix, unsure if I want one...more... handful. 

There, diving between peanuts and raisins and almonds and walnuts are THOUSANDS of little brown ants!

I sprint to the kitchen sink, and spit out what’s left in my mouth.

I wash my mouth out with tap water. Rinse spit, rinse spit, over and over again.

I take a several deep, long breaths - try my best to calm the fuck down.

I go back to sipping my coffee. It is delicious.

My mind wanders... what if? what if?

I lunge for the terra-cotta canister, pull out the foiled pouch of coffee and half-eye its contents. It too is loaded with little brown ants.

The cat flits her tail – she is amused.

I am on my way to a Memoir Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I will join the McCourt brothers, Malachy and Alphie, along with an eclectic group of published, and want-to-be published, memoirists.

No internet, or cell phone service. No meat and no wine, unless I pack a cooler.

I'm staying in a single, non-airconditioned room with a shared bath. I'm worried about the shared bath. I'm worried about little brown ants. And writing. And how frightening this all is. And how good it feels to do the things that frighten you.


To all of you who comment kindly on my writing, thank you for reminding me that, published or not, this is my gift.


  1. Do not be frightened.

    Be yourself.

    And just enjoy.

    Enjoy ur time alone. Enjoy meeting new people.

    I love the smell of coffee. I carry a small bag around with me. And I sniff it. Yep. I sniff coffee. I often get joked about this because if I am having a moment then I take my bag of coffee out and sniff it. It takes me to another place.

    Tea kettles--love them.

    I used to teach my nieces when they were young to say "Would u like a spot of tea?" in a British accent.

    I have my cute silver teapot. I love my quiet moments.

    A few ants won't hurt u. I figure we are building our immune system up.

    However, now a spider, is another matter. I got bit on the bum by a spider when I was digging in my garden. Did not know about it till someone swatted me playfully with a broom at the Coffeehouse and it hurt like well you know.

    Wound up at a Medical Outpatient Care. Where they decided to cut into the spider bite. Ouch!!! I'm still healing from that little wicked bite. That was the best copay of $35 I ever spent. They asked me over the next several days to come back so they could look over their handywork on my bum. I have never seen so much blood before come out of my body. And, of course, they were the cutest male doctors working on my bum.

    I think you will be ok with a few ants in ur system. Spiders no. Ants ok. Unless they were fire ants.

    Have a good time.

    1. ohhh.... SPIDERS freak me out! and they're dangerous.

  2. That is freaky weird. We just killed a spider under my desk. Ugh--

    A Wolf Spider they said. Of course, I had them identify it before it got squashed it.

  3. Yup, you made me squirm. More than once. You've survived catstir and antstir, so the Memoir Festival will be, shall we say, a walk in the park. Enjoy.

    1. Thanks Blissed! I'm here. Waiting for the workshop to start and its about to STORM! PERFECT writing weather!

    2. I luv storms. It is perfect writing weather.

  4. Ants!!!!! What purpose do they serve here on our planet?

    I hope you enjoy your outing. I would never ever go anywhere in August if I didn't have air conditioning. You are a trooper.

    1. so far, its pretty cool here. lets hope its not too cool. Thanks Denise ~

  5. I'm so envious of your writing retreat with the McCourts -- have fun, take risks, be free!

    Time to call the exterminator on those ants!! My Rare One and I have been waging all-out war on ants all summer here -- but outside. The goal being to stem the tide there so they don't get into the house. I have committed unspeakable atrocities with poison spray. I am Kali, Bringer of Death to Ants.

    1. very excited myself. thank you Debra :) I'm getting ready to turn inward...

  6. Aloha Shannon,

    Ha, this one cracked me up... I was like "where is she going with this?" and then it all became clear when you ate the ants :)

    If it makes you feel better, I sippeda soda one day, felt something in my throat as I swallowed, didn't thing anything... until I saw the *second* fly trying to get into my straw...

    Have fun at the retreat, and rock on with your awesome sauceness :)

  7. OK... is no one going to say it??

    GROSS! UCK! I'd have been scrubbing my tongue with the tooth brush and drinking gallons of water to flush them out! ICK!

    Ok... that is all. :)

    1. :)))))))) it was soooo nasty. I'm still cringing at the thought

  8. Oh.My. Gawd. You had me allllll calm and serene, picturing your coffee ritual.....awesome!!!! Good thing all I had were liquids last visit....



    1. I had no intention of writing about it when I started this post. I thought I was going to write about Jay's birthday....

  9. Gross! Can totally relate... Was at a beach wedding last weekend. Flying bugs landing in every drink and on every morsel. Eww.

    Enjoy the festival!

    1. I think flying bugs are worse than crawling bugs... but, maybe not

  10. We are similar in so many ways. I wear a bracelet that says, "Be Brave and Do Hard Things." Not sure it gives me courage, but I do know that I cannot be ruled by fear, or shouldn't be. I know that I am at times. Ruled by fear, doubt, guilt, responsibility. You'd think for once I might be ruled by something positive. Working on it. (Sh*t. seems like i always give that disclaimer!)

    No fun eating ants, or riding the kitchen of them. Pheobe should be glad her bowl was clean and empty or it would be full of ants too! And I would totally be concerned about a shared bathroom. I always am.

  11. ants a good protein!

    Aloha from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

    > < } } (°>

  12. OMG Shannon! I am practically gagging just thinking about it, but I'm a real wuss when it comes to bugs and anything outdoorsy. Ick. Ick. Ick.
    You are the bravest, kick-ass woman I know!! I didn't know a thing about you going to the Memoir Festival. That definitely sounds like YOU! Can't wait to hear all about it. Love and hugs to ya...

  13. Ants are just another word for fresh spicy protein. Just use a flour sifter to get the ants out of your coffee, or trail mix.

    on another note, I've been sharing a bathroom for years, how bad could stangers be? I bet they will close the door, leave the seat down, and open the window when needed?

  14. I have a confession.
    I held a Potluck at my place in Scottsdale, AZ. Everyone was to make something to bring. No stopping at the store on the way.. and it had to be good. My contribution was hand churned Ice Cream with good, wholesome ingredients. It was sweetened with pure Maple syrup, given to me fresh from a friend's tree in Vermont. I carefully hand-crafted the ice cream, and when it was time to add the Maple syrup, it was full of ANTS! Well, I blew off as many as I could, and made a snap decision; use it anyway. I told the people that the tiny black flecks were vanilla bean. It was delicious.

  15. Love, love, love the story!! So funny and well-told. I can relate. The little brown ants are back in my kitchen, too. I will be thinking of you at Omega. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  16. The Ants are everywhere, we need to leave for Saratoga Springs ASAP, thank God, Ponies will run, wine will be drunk, another year passes, this doesn't suck!! Cook

  17. You might be on to something there. There are gourmet coffee beans that pass through a rare type of lemur or something that costs about fifty bucks a pound. I wonder if you could market ant flavored, sidewalk roasted coffee.

  18. ANTS-I am petrified of them!! I used to make potions to kill them when I was little-ever since I had them swarm my foot at GoGo's house when I was about 4. Also equally afraid of spiders since all of my Cook brothers lifted me out of a boat and dropped me into a nest of spiders in Canada. I too ate ants at GoGo's house in cream of wheat that she made-she told us (Jim and Me) it was cinnamon. He doesn't know still. Last year Skates (dog) was digging as I was talking to my neighbor, the next thing we noticed she was halfway covered with ants-her white fur was black. We ran to Bonnie's garage and tried to broom them off then got the hose and sprayed them off. I almost passed out since I'm terrified and Bonnie told me to keep it together for the Dog!!! Quite a scene!! I had the exterminator spray that hill in the yard.

    After your experience I would need drugs - valium or whatever.... Just the thought creeps me out!


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison