I watch my morning tea water heat up on the stove. In the bottom of the silver pan thin stringy ripples that look like veins under skin begin to form and writhe. They wiggle back and forth across the smooth surface, the heat creating and pushing them from place to place. Small bubbles begin to form. First, on the bottom, stuck in place, gathering in number, until at last the heat rises enough in that one spot to release the bubble and send it rocketing toward the surface where it pops. The gas released into the air of the room, mixes with my breath and the air blowing from the heater vent.
Soon, all the small bubbles rise and pop and are replaced by larger, marble-sized bubbles – forming, expanding, rising, and bubbling out of the water all at once. Now, this rolling boil creates steam and heat and fogs up my glasses as I watch. Finally, I interrupt the churning water by lifting the pan off the burner and slowly pouring the boiling liquid into my waiting cup. The fragrance of green tea and honey waft upwards, and I inhale deeply.
Picking up my cup, I take my first sip. I feel the warmth in the handle and wrap my cold hands around the cup to absorb its radiant heat. I sniff the steam and raise the cup to my nose. The warmth soothes me. I tilt the cup gently feeling the hot liquid touch my tender lips, and I sip cautiously so as not to burn my mouth. The green tea and honey flavors activate my salivary glands, and my mouth floods with enzyme-packed saliva. I smile.
The sun peeks over the horizon at this very moment and lights up the morning. I peer over the steam from my tea and watch silhouettes of songbirds flitting to and from the bird feeder that is hanging from the porch. House finches, warblers, titmice, a ruby-crowned kinglet, and red-bellied woodpecker all vie for space and seeds, trying to nourish their too-cold bodies as the thermometer barely reaches 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the female cardinal arrives, everyone scoots over to make room for her. When the male cardinal swoops in, all the birds scatter. Apparently his bold red color frightens even the largest and boldest of the birds away. The red-bellied woodpecker returns, large and colorful and brave. He picks up a nut and I watch, fascinated, as a puff of steam escapes his beak. I laugh out loud. I’ve never seen a bird’s breath before.
I sip my tea and continue to watch as the morning sun rises inch by inch. The room where I sit begins to warm up as my tea cools. I sip and watch. Bird shadows dance across the floor, the sofa, the sliding glass door. There is a calmness inside me that is antithetical to the feeding frenzy outside my door. We are different and, yet, we are the same. My heart is warm. My mind is clear. I am the birds. I am the tea. I am here. This is all there is, and I am at peace.