anna brones

writer + artist

Posts Tagged ‘coffee outside

Coffee Outside, After a Wild Swim

leave a comment »

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. 

Here we are, almost halfway through the year. We’re coming closer to the summer solstice, which for those of us in the northern hemisphere means ample hours of daylight, and warmer days for explorations and adventures. Nature is bursting with the promise of summer, wildflowers in bloom and early morning birdsong to wake us to the day. It’s a very special time of year, this year even more so than usual as it feels like we need this promise, this reawakening. Over the last few months, we’ve challenged you to all kinds of coffee adventures outside. We’ve explored someplace new, taken time and space for solitude in the forest, and paired our cup with creativity and art

This time around, we’re called to water, and the glorious action of a wild swim (and the coffee that follows). A lake, a river, a bay, the ocean: any body of water will do. A swim, a plunge, a plop, a dip, a leap, a wallow: anything that gets us immersed in the watery world. 

We’re drawn to these wild places because in the water, we feel a change take place. “Swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries: the line of the shore, the bank of the river, the edge of the pool, the surface itself,” writes Richard Deakin in the book Waterlog, an essential read for all wild swimmers. “When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim.”

In pursuit of a wild swim, we leave the known world of land and enter something else entirely. Our bodies behave differently than they do on land, we can float and we can bob, held by the water around us. In the water, we are as close as most of us will get to feeling what it would be like to be an astronaut in space: we’re still obliged to respect the rules of gravity, but in the water, we’re untethered, suspended in a universe made not of stars and planets, but of sea grass and barnacle-covered rocks. Perhaps it’s no surprise that this transition to a watery world helps to calm us, settle us, even encourage us to tap into our creative side. 

A wild swim offers our bodies the chance to reset and reawaken. Just the feeling of a cold river on bare toes can be enough to wake us up, imagine what happens when we submerge all of us? “For many swimmers, the act of swimming is a tonic, in that old-fashioned sense of the word: it is a restorative, a stimulant, undertaken for a feeling of vigor and well-being,” writes Bonnie Tsui in Why We Swim. The water allows us to feel a sense of wildness in our whole bodies. In fact, when we swim, we are perhaps at our most wild, uninhibited by loads of gear or clothing. At best, we can enter the water silently in nothing but our skin, but even a bathing suit will allow us that close connection to the water surrounding us, wrapping us in her velvety hands. 

The search for a swimmable spot is also part of the endeavor, part of the adventure. Tracing a map with your finger to find a lake or river you’ve never been in, or exploring your own locale to identify a spot where you can quietly slip into the waves and be one with the sea. If we’re drawn to wild swimming, seeking out a body of water becomes our compass no matter where we go. 

A wild swim transports us to a different time and place. It’s a refuge and a reset. “Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in,” Mary Oliver writes in a line in her poem “To Begin With, the Sweet Grass,” and even if you’re not swimming in a tidal body of water, you can connect to the sentiment. Rivers and lakes have their own pace too. To be on “water time” is to shift our thinking, shift our being. 

This is a month of long days. The water welcomes us early in the morning and late into the evening catching the reflection of summer sunrises and sunsets. If you need more swimming inspiration, the Outdoor Swimming Society is hosting a global event on the summer solstice: The Longest Swim on the Longest Day of the Year. The “longest” really is up to interpretation, any kind of wild swim will do whether it’s a two minute chilly plunge, a hearty 5k, or maybe just a little longer than what you usually do. 

How you do your wild swim is up to you. But we hope that you pack your thermos of coffee, or bring your brewing kit to set up on the banks of the river or the shore of the sea. We  happen to love the taste of coffee after a swim, maybe even a little treat to pair with it, spread out on the ground next to our towel. We wriggle out of the bathing suit and pull on a warm layer. Or if we’re lucky: we sun dry in the warm air. We find a spot on the shore to sit, and let our take in the body of water that we’ve just been in. The sensations of a wild swim pulse through us, committing themself to muscle memory. No matter where we are, we always enjoy a cup of coffee outside to soak up the surroundings, and after a wild swim we can tap into that  moment of presence, when every cell in our body tingles with the sense of being alive.  

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

June 12, 2021 at 09:00

Coffee Outside, Somewhere New

leave a comment »

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

In her book Wintering, Katherine May describes the struggles of the fallow season we are now coming to the end of. “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.” Now, at last, March’s new moon brings us to the beginning of Spring and a collective surfacing gasp for air after the longest of winters. 

Last month we nudged you to drink your coffee outside and be observant. This time we build on that with a call to take your coffee somewhere you have never been before. To become an explorer. An explorer of the world on your doorstep.

There are so many places that we would love to visit: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia and all the other colourful coffee countries. Yet none of us are roaming the globe right now, of course. This has been a unique season of curtailed plans, clipped wings, and feelings of being cooped up and confused.

But experience has shown us –and this is important– that exploring locally is not just a mediocre solution to the problem. Nothing we describe here feels like a compromised existence. For example, in recent months, we have run every street reaching out from our homes, like a spider web, finding paths and lanes that had previously escaped our notice. We have appreciated the daily colours of the saltwater swimming palette, a chosen cold, one that we step into, one that we can leave. We climb the same tree every month in order to better notice the shifting of our lives and seasons. And we have committed to exploring a single map, the one we live on, to help put nearby nature into our everyday lives. 

Nature is cyclical: tides ebb and flow, the moon waxes and wanes. We too “have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.” (From Wintering, again.) We have a tendency to think of ‘new’ in a static way. (“Ah, coffee in a new place you say? I must find somewhere different!”) But ‘new’ can also be a state of mind. We would do well to remember that even in a place we know well, this very moment is both new and unique, never to pass in quite this way again. To quote Pico Iyer sort of quoting Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.”

Pay attention to the newness of revisiting the same spot in different seasons, different weathers, and different times of day. Sip your coffee and take a moment to notice the sunrise on your face, the afternoon shade, or the tranquility of dusk.

Even after many years of local microadventures, we still find new gems every time we choose to search for them. Go find one for yourself. Delight in the new, expand your local horizons, and your curiosities will expand too. 

Remember also, as you turn left instead of right towards today’s coffee spot that your local patch of woodland (or park or bench on a quiet street) would seem deliciously beguiling to someone who lives far away from you. [Looking at all your photos of enjoying coffee outside last month gave us very itchy feet. We would be fascinated to join you in your new place.] So many fresh sounds and sights and smells to inhale. All those ideas percolating… 

Spring is coming once more, both literally and metaphorically. We have all trodden through dark times recently, together but often alone. These times have changed us all. How will we choose to re-enter the world? How are we growing into our own spring? 

Make no mistake, winter can be “a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” With today’s new moon and the arrival of spring, make an effort to open your eyes to all that you do not know, to all that is new if you look afresh. Embrace and celebrate the opportunities that lurk waiting for us to find them rather than getting bogged down by the bulky and bothersome constraints dropped upon us. Rethinking the definition of “new” is a call to action for our curiosity.

Just because a coffee sit-spot is within a mile or two of your front door and the lengthy To Do list of chores waiting for you at home should not demean its beauty, its appeal, or its power. Indeed it ought to do the very opposite. We can discover freshness even in the most well-worn of our routines. How lucky you are to have found this spot, here, now, right when we are all yearning to become explorers once again! 

(And a final thought to consider. We are only a week away from the spring equinox with its longer days and feeling of hope and renaissance. Why not make a note in your diary to return to the same coffee spot at the autumn equinox too, as well as the solstices of summer and winter?)

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

March 14, 2021 at 16:14

Coffee Outside

with 2 comments

Alastair Humphreys—king of the microadventure, author of many books, and lover of all kinds of curiosities big and small—and I wanted to collaborate on something. Art? Words? Where would we start? We went back and forth for a long time, thinking of what might be the right thing to take on together. And then we thought, why not just go back to the thing that’s at the root of it all, the thing that always helps us to begin: coffee. We are both avid coffee drinkers, coffee weaves its ways into our adventures and our creativity. It made sense to do a collaboration focused just on that. In the spirit of percolating new ideas and projects, we’re releasing this on the day of the new moon. In this one, Alastair took a stab at the words and I took a stab at the art. We’ll both be drinking some coffee outside today (probably tomorrow as well) and we hope you’ll join us in some coffee outside adventures, wherever you are. 

Momentous and wondrous things — adventure, a piece of art, a new project — begin with a seed of an idea, a cup of coffee, and then the decision to begin.

Whether it is ‘putting the kettle on’ in Britain when hatching plans, Sweden’s daily fika to savour life’s small joys, or ‘grabbing a coffee’ in North America to toss around exciting ideas, we believe that good stuff comes from coffee. 

We appreciate the familiarity of a favourite mug, the performance of the preparation or the ritual of going to a favourite cafe. We take pleasure in the caesura, the space created by pausing for coffee, and perhaps a faint glimpse of the Buddhist notion that you can experience the universe by drinking a bowl of tea. 

So coffee is where we are going to begin this new journey towards exploring the link between adventure, creativity, curiosity, and wellbeing. [By the way ‘tea’ can be used interchangeably with ‘coffee’ throughout. Perhaps not ‘Beer’ though, if you’re reading this early in the day!]

What if we try something different with our daily ritual? Nothing dramatic, nothing to worry about or procrastinate. Just a tiny step towards something different. Sometimes that can be all you need to leave your rut. Nudge the helm, trim the sail of a small boat leaving Java and you’ll shift your landfall from Kenya to Yemen. 

Today we nudge you to take your coffee outside and experience an extra sliver of the universe. A cup of coffee in the fresh air cracks open the space to allow ideas to percolate and brew. For adventure ideas. For a blackbird waiting for this moment to arise. For creative impulses and a breath of breeze. The time to observe, notice and appreciate the world outside your front door. 

The hardest part of any adventure is what Norwegians call the ‘dørstokkmila‘, the doorstep mile, cajoling yourself to leave the comfortable, familiar house, step out of a rut and into the world. The doorstep mile is the longest mile of any journey.

Before Russians begin a journey they sit down together and pause in silence to clear their heads and bring good fortune. The tradition is called ‘sidet na chemodanakh or ‘sitting on your suitcases’. Our bags are not yet packed, but we have now begun to dream.

Abraham Lincoln supposedly said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. Similarly, when we plan an adventure, a book, or a new work of art, we first of all pause for coffee. 

Who are you? Where are you? How will you take your coffee today? We want to hear from you, and where these outdoor moments take place. Perhaps you’ll sit amongst the pigeons on a park bench with your latte. Or with an espresso and a croissant at a terracotta-tiled cafe beside the emerald waters of the Adriatic. You may walk outside in the middle of winter barefoot, standing on your porch in bare feet, feeling the cold of the season, the hot mug in your hands. You could fill a thermos and set out on foot for the woods. Or you might prefer to brew your coffee outside. A gas stove and a sprinkle of instant. A jetboil and French press. Aeropress. Bialetti. Briki. A kelly kettle or a coffee bag. Java drip, filter, press pot or percolator. A Moka pot and wanderlust for al-Makha. Perhaps you’ll gather twigs and light a fire for cowboy coffee or forage, roast and grind a beech nut substitute coffee. Or maybe you’ll simply carry your cup from kitchen to sunlit garden and sit for a while, caging the minute within its nets of gold.

We are fascinated by the concept of adventure, something that often comes with a sense of uncertainty and unknown. This past year has presented us with ample amounts of uncertainty in our everyday, and our thoughts about –and approach to– ‘adventure’ has most certainly shifted. Our journeys now are closer to home. We are challenged to stay curious and find joy in our most trivial moments. It’s easy for things to become routine and mundane. This is why we should use something as small as a change in daily ritual to bring us a hint of what we have missed. It holds the possibility of surprise and serendipity, and offers an invitation to exploration and the simple activities that fill life with joy and inspiration.

Whilst we doubtlessly want adventure, we also crave ways to slow down and be present, to connect with the world around us, and generate the opportunity to pursue our creativity. Mark this cup of coffee as the beginning of that quest. To consciously look askew at the way we do things. An interlude to pay attention and be grateful. And a chance, with the final sip, to acknowledge how easy that was and to commit to try something similar again. 

This might merely be drinking a cup of coffee outside. But it may also be the birth of a new adventure. We do not yet know. But we have begun to find out.

Written by Anna Brones

February 11, 2021 at 09:00

New Cups for Coffee Outside: Powers Provisions Collaboration

with one comment

I am so excited about the recent collaboration that I did with Powers Provisions for custom Miir coffee cups. These are ideal for coffee/tea/hot chocolate/hot toddies/anything else that you want to drink and keep warm (or even cool).

I wanted the custom papercut that I made for this piece to capture the essence of time spent outside. For me, that’s usually in my Pacific Northwest stomping grounds, and fortunately the landscapes that inspire me—islands, sea, evergreens—are very at home in Alaska, where Powers Provisions is based.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Anna Brones

July 17, 2019 at 10:20

Video: Coffee Outside

with 5 comments

Surrounded by a lot of talented filmmaker friends, I have always been attracted to the power of visual storytelling. But enjoying visual storytelling is one thing. Making it yourself is another thing entirely.

A little over a year ago I told a couple of filmmaker friends that I wanted to invest in a camera so that I could try my hand at filming. “Do it!” was the resounding response.

Sure, I had played around with iMovie a few years ago, putting together a few clips into something coherent, but nothing more than that. Maybe it was time I challenged myself. So I got the camera, and took a lot of nice photos with it, entirely intimidated, in fact, nearly paralyzed, by the thought of trying to do video. Where would I even begin? What if I failed?

Having talented creative people around you is a really good thing. Imagine if you were surrounded by a bunch of boring, mediocre individuals? No thank you. But there’s a flip side to being surrounded by all this talent; while they’re happy to encourage you, you also have very high standards to live up to. And so, I found myself unable to jump into the world whose waters I wanted to test. I was nervous, stricken by the idea that I might make something that wasn’t up to par.

And then it struck me: this is your first film. If we all listened to the voices in our head that told us we were going to fail before we even started, we wouldn’t get anywhere. Failure is just another form of fear. Because what is failure? The definition is up to us entirely, and in the case of wanting to try something new, the only failure I could really come up with, was not doing it at all.

So I set out to make a short film. Super short. Turns out, it’s hard. But it’s also fun, and I can see why all my filmmaker friends are so addicted. There is power in storytelling, whether it’s a short love letter to something we love, or if it’s a feature-length documentary tackling important subjects that we believe the world should know more about.

This video came out of a love of coffee and the outdoors. At the end of July, I spent two weeks hiking in Northern Sweden, and I knew that with a place so visually stunning, I should at least get something on film. This is what it became. This short video isn’t going to change the world (that will be a film later down the line, thank you very much) but maybe it will change how you think about your coffee routine. And maybe this story will inspire you to try something new, something you have never done before and that you’re scared of. Because quite frankly, there’s nothing better.

Written by Anna Brones

August 24, 2015 at 18:27