anna brones

writer + artist

Coffee Outside, After Sleeping Outside

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

You’re going to appreciate this month’s coffee more than any other from our adventures this year. A night spent under the stars is unlikely to offer the best sleep of the year, but it is refreshing and restorative in other ways that make up for it. If you simply want to sleep, stay inside. But if you are searching for magic and memories then grab your sleeping bag and head for the hills. (Here’s a little equipment list to help you plan) If that feels too audacious then haul your duvet into your garden for the night as you did back when you were a kid. We’ve done that recently and it is a surprisingly exciting, wild experience to sleep in your own garden, on your deck or your balcony.

Something deep and primeval inside us, plus the boring habits and conventions of modern life, combine to make the feeling of lying down to sleep in nature a mixture of excitement, nerves and absurdity. Nerves are natural, yet irrational: you’re tucked away in a quiet corner of the world, nobody knows where you are, you are completely safe. So that leaves the absurdity of going to sleep out here in nature (the chuckles and sense of wonder), the unfamiliarity of the night and the excitement of such a simple experience. 

There is no moon tonight so the stars are particularly bright. You might not have paid much attention to them for many months now. But they put on a spectacular show of shooting stars and satellites as you fall asleep. As you doze and wake and doze some more you notice the constellations revolving across the heavens. A pair of hooting owls weave in and out of your dreams and consciousness. Perhaps they were in the nearby trees for minutes or for hours; it is hard to know. For a night sleeping outdoors is a confused and busy affair. You sleep lightly and remain more aware of the world than you do at home in your bed. Eventually you notice the first hint of dawn, a slight lightening of the eastern horizon. You snooze a little longer. The next time you open your eyes you can make out the black silhouettes of trees and the dark sky is paling into grey. 

It is a misty morning. The seasons are turning now, summer sliding towards autumn, and this is our final ‘coffee outside’ prompt of the summer. As the sky lightens the grass sparkles with dew. The droplets on a spider’s web hangs like rows of pearls. When the sun rises the colour returns to the world. It is going to be a beautiful end of summer / start of autumn day. 

Time now for coffee. You sit up in your sleeping bag, stretch, yawn and look around you. You reach into your backpack and set up your stove. You pour water into your pan and the splashes ring out in the silence of the morning. Then comes the quiet roar of your little camping stove – one of the loveliest sounds imaginable. And then comes a few minutes of patience as you wait for your coffee to brew. A chance to look closely and notice the minute changes in the light as the morning creeps to life. To pay attention to the bird song and the chirp of insects. To see the leaves tremble in the breeze and remember that in a month or two they will be golden, and then gone. To appreciate the slight chill on your nose and the delicious warmth inside your sleeping bag. 

A hot mug of coffee after a night sleeping outside is a wonderfully restorative thing. Any nerves you had about sleeping outdoors dissolved with the daylight. So the coffee is also celebratory. Look! You’ve woken up outdoors, something that is so rare for most humans these days. The simple warmth of a hot drink feels wonderful as you cup it in your hands and sip it down. (This confession may be heresy to coffee aficionados, but out in the wild we have shuddered with happiness and gratitude for instant coffee, for a tea bag used five times over, even just for a mug of hot water to drink. The simplicity of possessions and experiences when in the great outdoors makes you so much more present and appreciative.)

Now, after your coffee, the day is calling to you. It is time to shove your sleeping bag into your pack and be on your way. There is still time (and always will be) for a sunrise dip in a river or the ocean (or pop inside for a hot shower if you spent the night in your garden). 

Finally it is time to return to a different world—the world of emails, chores, thermostats and electric lights—for after a night under the stars it does not feel much of an exaggeration to describe them as separate worlds. Back to the so-called ‘real world’. A little tired, no doubt. Perhaps somewhat disheveled. But with the reward of an experience and a coffee that you will still remember a year or more from now. If life is about making memories, a night spent outdoors is a simple way to create something a tiny bit special. 

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

September 10, 2021 at 09:00

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