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“Streaks of sunlight materialize across the wooden table and the kids awake as we transition into the second cup”

Loose-Leaf Bookends

Words by Scott Anderson Photograph by Ryan Robert Miller

A couple shares their daily ritual: a pot of tea and a deliberate attempt to do very little. 

It started with a shared pot of tea. My wife and I have now settled into a routine that we’ve come to refer to as our “daily bookends.” The key ingredients include carefully chosen loose-leaf teas and a deliberate attempt to do very little. The premise is simple: ­each day begins and ends with a thoughtfully prepared, and slowly consumed, cup of tea. The ceremonial rituals create our morning and evening bookends, serving as small windows of daily clarity and peacefulness. As part of the ritual, the tea is attentively prepared, always a comfortable distance from the day’s pending (and preceding) obligations. Quite noticeably, the morning and evening bookends each bring distinctive nuances that are experienced and enjoyed in different ways.

The morning tea, and our ensuing conversation, is meant to invigorate us and to serve as an anchor to help secure our footing for what the day will soon reveal. We typically choose a black tea from a small—but growing—repertoire of teas from near and far. A British breakfast variety has been our “go-to” as of late, enjoyed in thick mugs, sometimes with a splash of milk and a pinch of brown sugar (metaphors for armor shielding us from any trouble that may cross our path throughout the day ahead). We raise our mugs with a toast and take a few sips before settling into a review of our aspirations—remaining careful not to lose our connectedness, and taking in the peace and stillness of the morning. Streaks of sunlight materialize across the wooden table and the kids awake as we transition into the second cup. Oatmeal and fruit then join the equation, along with the buzz of domestic mornings.

I choose to bypass the coffee machine at the office, and instead make a variety of teas throughout the day. However, these are consumed in a different fashion. Each sip serves as a prelude to the evening bookend, which will be enjoyed in the absence of the wheels of commerce and the day’s churning deadlines and demands.

The evening tea is meant to be uncomplicated. Moroccan mint is a favorite, with the steeped tea leaves representing remnants of a day well spent. All else is left behind, and hand-painted, cast-iron teacups are our reward for the accomplishment of getting our three children (all under the age of 10) settled down and tucked in for the evening—no small feat. The house settles, and a candle illuminates the same tabletop that, hours ago, served as the canvas for streaks of light from the awakening sun.

These morning and evening loose-leaf bookends connect us to the here-and-now, to each other, and to ourselves. They help bring a calmness and quietness to our otherwise noisy lives. They have become rituals for being present and more attentive.

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