In the morning, buns and tea

What is morning? It is the beginning of the day. It also signals the ending. It can be night, day, afternoon, evening or even twilight. As long as it begins.

For me, it is when I open my eyes from the snatches of temporary death, from dreams of another life.

Morning is a time when I say thanks for being able to wake up to another day. It may be a day that I am not looking forward to, like Monday, Tuesday or Saturday, depending on what happens in those days (it’s not Monday’s fault for being Monday). I give thanks for being able to see my family again for yet one more day. For being on Earth, for having my friends, colleagues and acquaintances around — actually they are all the same because they are a part of me, but some parts are further than others, like my toes which I barely look at. Morning is gratitude.

Morning is also a time when the smell of steamed buns fills the household. There are buns with different fillings — either vegetables or red bean paste, because those two are my favourites. It is a familiar smell of old, probably of times gone by. Of buns that are hand-made and sold to blue-collared workers toiling in the hot sun, not white-collared in an air-conditioned office. Of the workers relishing the generous fillings inside. Just simple vegetables and red beans. None of those fanciful stuff like bird’s nest or foie gras.

Of roads filled not with cars but rickshaws, of towkways speaking in different dialects, ladies in cheongsams (and men too), of stray dogs wandering the streets. Also of black coffee, darker than black, that is meant to knock you awake. Good medicine is always bitter, goes an old Chinese saying.

Morning is the smell of strong tea that appears in the air when I, in my daily morning ritual, unseal the glass sarcophagus to retrieve an interred tea bag full of dead tea leaves which are marked with a No. 2 for their strength. I don’t know how far the numbers go but one day, I would like to find out from the retailer. It is a wonderful smell, the tea leaves.

Morning is also a time for meditation, for quiet sitting so that I can listen to what my mind speaks. And also, so that I can hear my mind when it is quiet — both my mind and the surroundings. Sometimes I’ll sit for five minutes, sometimes 20.

Morning is a time of love. For me to learn to love myself first so that I can start loving others, if I have yet not begun. For me to get to know myself so that I can know others. For me, so you.

Morning is a time of rituals. Of doing everything attentively and being in the present. So that I know the teapot is made by Luzerne (or something like that), that the cup is made in Japan, the tea is packed in UK, the buns were bought last night from a shop in Geylang.

That a mynah’s shadow is cast against the ground in the morning sun. Unseen but there.

That the world will end. Death will come to all. But I will be happy.

And you ask me why do I wake so early.

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