On why, or the magic of coffee

I would stand eyes level with the yellow formica counter, and watch her make magic. The steps were always the same. Although I could barely see over the counter, I could make out the ceramic mug. Guiding boiling water in motion, she’d bring the kettle to the cup. And I’d watch water — see-through clear — pour out from kettle to cup.

That’s when the magic happened.

Padding behind her to the kitchen table, I’d follow her sitting down as if this were an ordinary moment. Knowing little of etiquette or ownership, I would stare directly into her cup. Bitter. Brown. Not water. Transformed.


Why? Why did water sometimes become coffee? Why is water magic only in the kitchen? Why does water need a change? Why did she keep it a secret? Why do people drink brown beverages?

I had a thousand questions. And for them, there was only one answer, seemingly simple today.

A question of why

Why is a six-year old so curious? Partly practical. Because she is not tall enough to know all the answers, she must ask good questions. To see over the edge of the cup would be to see the answer. As this isn’t possible, observation and questioning are her only tool.

Access less

Access can take away why. More practical is less practical sometimes, and being tall and connected and well-read and traveled can dull the edges of a good question. If questions aren’t coming easily, make yourself less so. Take something away. Give something away. Be less tall. Remove the excess, and you might find what remains is a good question.

And that is magic.