I bought this coffee mug in 2016 at the Glacier Point gift shop in Yosemite National Park to add to my collection of mug memories. My son and I were on day three of our summer trip to California. Printed on it is a quote from naturalist John Muir.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
It was the perfect senitiment to capture this adventure of ours through central California. We’ve hiked a lot of paths together over the years, and more than a few of them have been dirt.
My son and I stood at the summit of Baldy Mountain, on what felt like the top of the world. He wanted me to take his photo sitting on the edge. I have no idea what was going through his mind as he sat there, looking toward the dissipating haze of New Mexico’s eastern horizon, but my spirit brimmed with the emotional memories of the day he was born.
In the months before his birth, I voraciously read every how to be a parent manual out there. I believed that parenting could be treated as an academic enterprise, just another subject to learn, an expertise to be acquired. When challenges arose, I’d just flip to the right page for the answer.
The day we went to the hospital to be induced, I felt confident that we had this thing under control. I’d put myself through Dad 101 and was ready to roll.
Then everything went to hell.
His mom’s vitals started to plummet. Undiagnosed preeclampsia was starting to ravage her internal organs. It was time to get the kid out. The doors to surgery closed in my face as the gurney rolled away. They didn’t cover this in Dad 101. My confidence evaporated, replaced by sheer panic.
Each morning I’m home, I follow the same ritual. I clean the coffee maker, grind the beans, fill the water reservoir, and press BREW. I reach into the cabinet to choose from double stacked memories, from coffee mug mementos that remind me of events, experiences, and eras of my life.
Aside from photos, I don’t keep many physical reminders of my past, but the coffee mugs are an ever-present exception. I wake up my brain and fuel my morning from these vessels, sipping from the emotions and lessons they still hold.