I grew up on Indian tea– dark black grounds nesting in a stainless steel sifter, resting in a black skillet. The hot water boils around it, the stovefire simmers, and the heavy milk sprawls on top like a sheen of plastic. Everything about it looks dirty and it probably is– you’re not supposed to wash a black skillet, you know.
But when the tea pours, it is pure. My mom lifts the skillet in one hand, balancing the strainer in the other, and tips the heavy weight of the pan to the side. The strainer catches stray pieces of cardamon, loose grounds, and clumps of milk. The tea itself is a solid, heavy consistency. Some of it spills, always. It is spicy, scented, hot, and sweet– an introduction to a million sensory experiences at once.
Good morning, chai says. Here’s a sampling of all the things you could experience today.
Coffee is different, a sharp contrast. My first sip of made me cringe. Its aromatic bitterness wipes all sensory experiences away.
Good morning, coffee says. I’ve wiped the blackboard clean for you. Now there’s plenty of space to make today whatever you want it to be.
It’s an acquired taste, but the wonderful thing about taste is that you can acquire as much as you want. There’s no limit to the sensory experiences you can endure.
Milk separates. Raw tea surrenders entirely to hot water. Fire rattles the spices, but doesn’t break them down. Life shifts. Things change.
We sift what we can, we wash what we want, and morning happens whether or not we greet it with a warm mug of softly simmered liquid.
The only difference is the one thing that stays the same:
The power of our intent.
When we wake up, what sort of flavors are we hoping to find from life? What senses do we plan to stimulate? What experiences are we going to digest?
I grew up on Indian tea.
I started each morning, balancing a million tastes on the tip of my tongue, sipping on the warm prospect of a billion possibilities. The tea was heavy, but life was light, and I zoomed past it all.
I became a coffee drinker– a coffee lover– in my late teens. I’d open my eyes, overwhelmed by the twists and turns of my dreams. I’d roll out of bed, slowed by the smells and sights of my missions and goals. I’d groggily watch as the coffee dripped itself into existence.
The dark grounds hidden in the plastic machine. The water is heated by invisible currents of heat, and the magic of the contraption seeps it through a filter of paper, into a glass carafe. Everything about it looks dirty and it probably is– you’re not supposed to wash a coffee pot, you know.
But when the coffee pours, it is pure. I lift the glass in one hand, artfully pouring the liquid into a big mug. A little drips down the side and sizzles on the hotpot when I set the pot down, always. It smells like burn, coffee, and fire.
I drink it hot and black.
The black is welcome. It clears the senses. It scrubs the blackboard clean and I think– I can dream anything I want into existence today.
I am as powerful as my intent.
The coffee is dark as night, and light in substance, but life has become heavy.
Life has become something I never consciously created. I second-guess my thoughts now, terrified they may manifest into a reality of flavors I cannot enjoy.
The black is a little less welcoming now.
A little more frightening.
I write on the dark– let me be love.
But I think of the grief that exploded in me when I lost my love. My heart separates itself like the milk, a thin layer of protection rests on top, hardening to covering the rest– and I quickly erase.
I write on the dark — let me be great.
But I think of the small pieces of the world, broken on the way to anyone’s greatness. I think of Good, surrendering like the raw tea– and I quickly erase.
I write on the dark — let me see possibility.
But I remember how crushing it was to see the potential of the universe from the smallness of a box. I remember the fire, and how it rattled the spice of me, how it rattled my cage, and I am afraid, so I quickly erase.
I write on the dark — let me be kind. but you can barely read the claim, over the smudges in my intent and the thick consistency of my fear.
My life looks dirty, and it probably is. You’re not supposed to wash away the things that happen to you, you know. They spill whenever I move. My experiences drip down the side of me. It sizzles where I stand and I smell like bitter and sweet, always.
But when I live, it is pure.
It is kind.
And for right now, that is enough intent to greet the morning.
Written for Walking With Intention. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: Walking With Intention. But first leave a comment and let Ra know how you feel about what she said, and be sure to visit her over at Rarasaur where frightfully wondrous things happen.
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