This is my favourite photo from 2015. It’s a cup of tea.
And that’s kind of the point.
I was working on a project for a writing course I’m doing right now. My classmates and I had to create what’s called a MEmorial. This is a term created Gregory Ulmer back in the 1990s and it’s a kind of online monument to… something. To a disaster, to a tragedy, to something beautiful – it’s a kind of citizen’s response in the internet age.
And I decided to do it on climate change, which is by far the biggest disaster to happen to our species (though, as usual, I suspect that many other innocent species will suffer more first) and then I baulked. It was too hard. Too much.
So then I decided to try to connect with those small moments of which our day is comprised. (You do know we have 60,000 thoughts every day, don’t you?) The many simple things that we do and experience every single day, mostly unconsciously and mostly that pass us by because we are not paying attention. And I did this through video, music, words and photos, using a software package called Premiere Pro.
So I called it my MEmorial to the Moment. And the first photo I choose was this one. Partly because it is about the early morning cup of tea – so it reflects the beginning of a day that will be full of moments, so it seemed like a fitting opening.
And partly because it captured exactly what I wanted from all the photos I took, only some of which I used. What’s it’s essentially saying is this: there is more to this cup of tea than you think. It’s not just a cup of tea. It’s wonderful. It’s nourishing (emotionally as well as nutritionally; in fact it’s far more emotionally nourishing than nutritionally – if you let it). There is nothing quotidian about it.
Because it’s backlit, the steam rising from the tea is caught. I really wanted that. The sunlight lifts it too, and the sun is catching raindrops on the window in the background giving a sparkling effect. Everyday objects in the background are blurred but present. But the blurring draws your eye to the cup in focus, front and centre. The sunlight also plays with the small blue chopping board in the right foreground and the shine on the granite counter top gives a light/dark contrast. Contrast is good.
The otherwise mundane cup itself looks great too with the ring of sunlight reflected all around its lip, and the shine on the handle and side. The colours and designs are vibrant and attractive. Clearly this is not just any old cup of tea.
And that was exactly the point. A cup of tea is not just a cup of tea – if we allow it to be more. And that’s true of so many of the so called mundane moments or happenings of any give ‘normal’ day. They can be magic, if we let the magic in. If we see it, and are open to it, and are present to it.
This cup of tea gave me a lot of confidence in the potential value of the visual. As a means of self-expression and empowerment and consolation.
A cup of tea. Who’d have thunk it?
Here’s the full MEmorial if you have 4 minutes. I’ll write more about that some other time. I wish you could see all the ones my classmates did too – they were amazing.