The farmer and his morning stillness


I gave Malaysia a second chance.

This time it was far away from the hustle and bustle of concrete cities. It was far away from the boring eyes of faces contorted into question marks, and the discomfort of jostling crowds. I was not in a hotel room on the 37th floor wishing for the ground to open up and swallow me alive.

This time around there was no darkness. There were no eyes soaked in tears, and no unravelling that left me cradling myself on the dirty carpet.

We went into the mountains where we lived like peasant kings for a few days. 3 to be exact. Everybody is rich up there. Not in the conventional way we understand richness. They lay claim to the undulating land that swells into stunning mountains on every side. They lay claim to the way it feels when their feet sink into its ground. They call it home.

The clouds in the mountains seem to live by different rules. They come down so low, mixing with mere mortals and rubbing shoulders with trees and edges of rocks. There are tea plantations as far as the eye can see. They spread out like woven green carpets.

I am a tea drinker. When God was handing out coffee genes, I didn’t get the memo. I was also in the queue for tea. Nothing beats a good cup in the morning or evening as you stand by the window watching the world outside. So to be in the midst of tea bushes and to inhale their life force was something for me. Appreciation. Delight. Love.

But it is the mornings in the mountains that left marks on my heart. Deep bruises of nostalgia and “forget me not”.

There is a stillness that is inexplicable and unquantifiable. It settles so thickly in the air. It allows the mist to refresh the earth. The smell of overturned fresh earth that the farmer furrowed the day before. Coriander. The sounds of cockerels announcing dawn. The last dots of stars slowly taking their leave as the sky stretches the light along its body.

And I think about the farmer and his relationship with the earth. It is one based on trust. He opens up the soil, sows the seed and the earth does the rest – it pushes life out of the ground and feeds the farmer.

I thought about these things as I sat on a rock watching the sun come up over the horizon. In that moment I wanted to do everything better: relationships, work, life. I wanted to hold the stillness of that morning and infuse it into my very being.

Sometimes I forget to hold my head up high. I look in the mirror and I see something incomplete; I see the image of the woman some people wish to see – bowed head and crushed soul. And when I move away from the mirror I forget to lift my head up again. It is almost as though it is too heavy and I need permission to stare straight ahead. I become unsure of which spot on the ground to plant my feet in a way that would support my neck.

I’m learning to honour these raw moments. They remind me that I’m still affected by people’s doubts and misgivings about my humanity. They assure me that I am still me; still soft and fierce at the core. And if you see my head held up, it is not because I feel I am better but because that is the only I can see how and where to direct my love. It is the only way I can see you to love you well. I am full and I am enough. Someone in the world needs me. At least one person in the world needs me. And if there is even just one person that needs you in life, it is worth being here. You have to fight to be here in the best form of yourself.

There was something special about Malaysia this time around. A type of healing or perhaps beginning of a healing. A healing to replace the tear she had caused in my heart a little over a year ago. The farmer was the man I imagined as I breathed in that mountain air and watched the workers pile tea leaves into sacks. The farmer became the symbol of toiling, breaking open but also covering again that something beautiful might grow out of the ground, out of nothing.

And here I stand.

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