Pebble on the Tongue: ‘Luckiest Woman Alive!’

Some years ago, I was dinner guest in the home of an Ethiopian woman in Winnipeg, Canada.  We sat on haunches in her kitchen as she made coffee in the ceremonial way, roasting beans over open coals.  The strong aroma suffused her life story.

Years before, she had married for love a Muslim man back in Addis Ababa, as often happens in cities beyond the ken of custom.  Her husband’s family denounced the union, kidnapping her young son and vanishing into the back country, she says.  Rumor had it that he’d been seen in a refugee camp in the Sudan.  At this, she abandoned her work, her marriage and home to go in search, a two-week journey by camel across the desert.  There in Khartoum on the banks of the Nile she sustained herself as a domestic servant, but never found her child.

By now the kitchen was rife with the smoke of the beans, or was it incense?  She looked around, in seeming disbelief, scanning the north country home to which her story had finally brought her, where she ritually roasted the beans to savor the draft that had filled her cup: the misfortunes, the bewilderment, the losses.

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony – every bit as exacting as the Japanese tea ritual: the carpet of ‘grass’, the incense, the bowl of popcorn, the pottery ware, the coffee pot tilted well above the rim of the handleless cups, the attentive eyes of the server.  Taken together it says, ‘We tiptoe on the edges of mystery, of eternity.’ 
photo credit:  wikipedia commons.

The blessing said, she served me her dark elixir, adding this defiant, inexplicable word: 

‘I am the luckiest woman alive!’  

4 thoughts on “Pebble on the Tongue: ‘Luckiest Woman Alive!’

  1. Exquisite! There used to be an Ethiopian restaurant in our Mennonite Media building for a couple years and a woman treated us to her coffee ceremony one day, looking very similiar to this. I don’t remember any popcorn though! Love the ending.


  2. As a very minor comment, I note that her displacement from Ethiopia to Winnipeg required quite a climate adjustment. There must be more to her story.


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