Thursday, June 6, 2013

Caffeinated Dreams

June 6

Soft tendrils of smoke swirl above my yellow mug, caught in the morning sun that has joined me for breakfast. I could only see the smoke from a certain angle, and it moved continuously, changing shapes, beautiful and dreamlike, like a lovely memory that stirs when you hear a certain song, or catch sight of a silver chain around someone’s neck – you have no control over it, you can only see a part of it, and you can’t reach out and touch it. And just like that, it slips away, dissolving back into the past that follows us around on tiptoes.

I love mornings. Especially when everyone else is asleep and the solitude of a cool day that hasn’t quite stretched itself out and started about its business, with the warm sunlight that brightens all colors, the promise of a new start, the resolve of getting things done strong like coffee brewing in a pot. Add hazelnut creamer to give it just a little sweetness, stir, inhale.

A cup of hot tea, strong with a teaspoon of sugar to bring it to perfection, or a yellow mug of strong coffee, the smell of coffee beans that streams into your brain and plays it like a piano maestro.

Like a cigarette that glows orange when someone presses their lips around it and inhales deeply, and the smoke that swiftly twirls away – the sight of a bright mug that’s warming someone’s hands on a cold Sunday morning as they stand in their house slippers on dewy grass, taking a slow sip before they lean over and pick up the newspaper. Or when someone comes back from a long day, makes a cup of Earl Grey and then sinks down onto a plaid couch. The first sip that relaxes your shoulder muscles and suddenly everything feels manageable or at least easier to shove under the rug.

This was supposed to be about dreams, and how sometimes it feels like they’re slipping out of our back pockets as we walk the ever-speeding path of life (reminds me of those moving walkways that go a little too fast; I always feel bad if I’m not walking even though it’s a moving walkway and I don’t really need to. And then there are always those people who need to go faster than whatever speed you’re at, which makes you feel slow). But I guess tea, coffee and dreams can always go together.

I remember reading about coffee cafes in Pakistan, years ago, when writers, thinkers, poets, and people who made time for writing, thinking and poetry would gather in cafes and talk, ordering a steady stream of caffeine, served in small cups and big mugs, strong and dark, stirring thoughts and wakefulness, bringing people together, keeping dreams alive.

I can’t imagine a newsroom without tea cups – at any time someone or the other will be bringing a cup to their lips, eyes on the screen, trying to come up with the perfect headline for a story that’s been told before but needs to be retold a million times because it’s still happening and is still tragic. How would we finish 1,000+ word papers without caf├ęs and teabags? Conversations with friends that keep us sane or make us laugh, early in the evening or late in the afternoon. Doesn’t it always make you feel special when someone remembers how much milk and sugar you want in your tea? The camaraderie of caffeine! It creates a bond, nourishes friendships and nurtures relationships, gives us a reason to sit down with our feet up and share, more than just the cups of tea and coffee, it gives us time to share our lives, hopes and fears.

And then it’s a personal relationship too. Sometimes pouring boiling water over an orange pekoe teabag is exactly what you need to drive you to the writing table and start typing words, because no matter how long you keep those dreams dusty and rusty on the top shelf of your kitchen cabinet (the one that you need a stepstool to reach), you know these are important pieces of your puzzle.

Sometimes all you need to keep your hopes of being a writer, detective, astronaut, discoverer of awesome things, alive is making a cup of coffee or tea and sitting down with the dreams. Poke them, prod them, bring out a notepad and ponder over concrete steps to move towards them. Don’t be discouraged that you’ve had the same dreams since you were 8 years old and it feels like you’re just as far away from their realization. The most important step is to keep dreaming. And of course, keep drinking your tea and coffee. 

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