What’s the age old adage? When it’s been a tough day, put the kettle on.
I adore tea. Any day, when I’m struggling to see the light, preparing the ritual of tea and my favourite chai with Masala spice mix, leftover from India, helps me through and is a happy distraction.
I have an Indian shelf in the kitchen cupboard, among my parent’s jars of pickle, familiar marmite and well used ketchup. Above this shelf, nestled in a woven fabric bag are my tea favorites: verdant mint, silky rose, sugary kashmiri, full bodied chai. Leaves to be brewed in a pot and enjoyed.
Traditional Indian chai, with a few spoonfuls of sugar is a particularly naughty indulgence. But it has healing properties too with the freshly chopped ginger, black tea leaves, cracked pods of cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon simmering away.
I’ve been a bit heart achy lately. Certain things that I really want to do don’t seem so possible, job applications I’ve put in and wanted have gone to other candidates with more experience. For their reply, I waited.
To get where you want to be may take years, this is the advice I am repeatedly offered, but lacking patience, as a typical Aries, wanting everything now means I need a different approach to my setbacks. Waiting calmly and putting in the hours as weeks melt toward months and months to years feels like waiting for paint to dry.
Right now, I’m waiting ten days until someone comes to stay with me, I’m waiting for New Year’s day, when we’ll partake in the annual January 1st dip on a nearby beach, when everyone runs in fully clothed, thrashing around in freezing temperatures, and waits to warm up again.
What other choice do we have but to wait?
Sometimes, I’m subconsciously waiting for a time when things will be improved, my bank balance, so I don’t have to worry all the time or search for a job different to one I have.
I’m realising that there is a lot of waiting in this life for important things. University was the embodiment of a place where waiting didn’t mean much. No one started their degree wanting simply to reach the end of the three of four years, it was all the bits in between, growing up, falling in love with your class mate, dancing all night, studying through the long winters, and reaching term’s end, jubilant, with a marked essay in your hand, and a finished cup of tea in the other, that meant the waiting was over, for now.
It is something beautiful I don’t have to wait long for, I can have it almost now. It tastes comfortingly the same every time and warms that space in my chest reserved for joy, friendship, and blueberry pancakes.
And, I realise that our days will always be spent waiting for something but it’s how we use this waiting time that defines our life.
This tea making ritual confronts our impermanence and the environment’s persistence. Never more can my mum’s phrase ‘go with the flow’ be heard in my ears. Life’s very longevity, albeit a longevity of continuous flux, dwarfs the length of human days. Our journey through life, illustrated by sipping from a cup at every different stage along it as moving people, may be consistent with waiting’s journey, but the movement is in itself a timeless progression. A life celebrating movement must eventually celebrate stillness and endure the waiting, which for poet Wallace Stevens is a spatial idea ‘our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home’.
To bring these thoughts together, that feeling I get when drinking tea is like coming home.
Sometimes the tea is a little sweeter, and sometimes too strong. Sometimes, I leave the leaves and its murky, or forget to finish it, and end up with a cold cup. Life is this tea, changing in its patterns.
So maybe, there is a way to think of waiting not as blank time but a pregnable, enormous space where opportunities develop and unfold. As we look back on the past year, it is often easy to spot unexpected moments. Waiting teaches that the most important way to experience time is to live for now, and not look further forwards too much. We have right now, no waiting time needed!
This is enough.
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Assistant Editor: Kristina Peterson/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Photo: David Leggett on Flickr