It appeared suddenly from the dregs of my coffee cup. Staring at me from out of nowhere as I braced for the day, an awareness percolated out of slumber, I beheld a face.

I would not share this experience without reasonable grounds. In fact, the apparition abounded in grounds. Apparently it had decided to visit me during some sort of netherworld morning rounds.

As much as I enjoy coffee, I had not been drinking so much that I was hallucinating. I even called the image to the attention of my wife, so I could prove the experience was not simply an odd dream.

There it was, at the bottom of the first cup of the day, a mug inside my mug.

Facing the mysterious face, I stared back.

I'd heard of reading fortunes from tea leaves, but this was ridiculous.

Can description do justice to the image? Attempts to photograph it and sketch it have failed to communicate the mystery of that moment, the zing of the thing. Something struck me about that gaze - beyond the fact that it originated from the final sips of my morning beverage.

The scene was, admittedly, a bit cartoonish. The face featured absurdly large, winsome eyes peering from a receding crowd of other bulbous eyes and faces. In the foreground, the face staring directly at me presented more detail than the rest, including a scrunched nose and a furrowed brow.

The fellow looked like an apprehensive Muppet, with tiny black grounds transformed into stark pupils and bright eyes amid the dark watercolor wash, an expression caught in time amid a sea of suspicious spectators.

Collectively, the scene was not a tempest in a teacup, but a kind of concert cavalcade of crusty creatures in a coffee container.

I wondered if this strange face-off stemmed from my recently excessive relish in the daily ritual of preparing fresh coffee - a ritual that some would say borders on obsession. Only those who have not practiced this ritual would not understand its delights. To the last drop I enjoy the task of preparing the dark, toasty blend in a new coffee roaster, breathing in the aroma before letting the brew work its magic in a little French coffee press.

When I faced facts, this haunting struck me as a benevolent one. I welcomed this strange emissary and companions. The despondant group of coffee grounds swirled into a magical moment.

Despite their frowns, I found myself filled with happiness - and it wasn't just the caffeine kicking into my system. I felt as if an invisible cartoonist had shown me a silly chariacature of a pout, teasingly confronting me with the question, "is this what your day is going to be about, or will you get up and out?"

I realized if I had not happened to glance in the mug after I'd drained it, I would not have noticed this transitory little world. If I had held the cup differently and the figures had appeared upside down, I probably would have failed to see I was clutching a whole coffee clatch. If I had not quite polished off the drink, would this sea of faces simply not have materialized, or would I have inadvertently drowned the whole lot?

I realized if I had let myself plunge into the activities and blustery busy day without taking a moment to notice these little things, I might not have been receptive to this delightfully absurd coalescence of events that formed something larger and more meaningful.

And this phenomenon is true everywhere. Rain patters animated patterns on the windowpane. The majesty of autumn appears not only in the colors surrounding us, but also makes music with its crinkly leaves on the ground, a rustling symphony of sound. If we take but a moment to touch that plant we pass along the road, we might find our sense of smell rewarded with the scent of rich, fresh spice.

I let the coffee scene linger, allowed the crowd to dry. The cup sat on the kitchen counter for a long time, and I didn't have the heart to wash them down the drain.

But eventually the time arrived when I realized I needed to rinse out the painting. After all, the experience was meant to be fleeting ... and I needed to have the mug ready for another cup of coffee. But as I came face to face with the rest of that particular day, I felt particularly well-grounded.

Brad Bolchunos realizes that by describing the vision he beheld in the bottom of a coffee cup, he could be perceived as quite a drip. He expects that by his friends he will be fully roasted.

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