Winter Mornings / Arathi Devandran

Early mornings have always been my favourite time of the day. There is a deep silence; time stretches with the darkness and solitude, and within it, lies the possibility and magic of what is to come.

I had forgotten the magic of winter mornings till recently.

I moved to a new country a few weeks ago and have found myself battling terrible jet lag. I would go to sleep very early (those who know me know this is very consistent with my person) and wake up at the crack of dawn.

The first few moments of my waking are usually disconcerting – I open my eyes to a sea of darkness, and my mind tries to anchor and place itself in what it perceives to be nothingness.

Slowly, it comprehends that my body is lying on a bed, that I am waking up, that it is morning, and that I am no longer home.

During my year of healing, I would wake up at 6.33am every morning. I would boil some water to make myself a hot cup of tea, and perch by my window ledge. My room was tiny; there was barely enough space for a desk and a bed, but I had a generous ledge, on which I had my plants, my candles, and a spot for me to sit at and stare out at the expanse of sky.

Like clockwork, the sun would rise, and colours would bleed across the sky – shades of vermillion and indigo and sandalwood, a kaleidoscope of beauty that my words still do no justice for. Some days, the clouds would lie thick and heavy, and the light would be barely visible. Other days, the sky would be clear, the colour show a riot, the witnessing heart, full.

There are few things I remember about my year of healing – fervent prayer, the love of my friends who are now family, and those sunrises. Little moments of peace that I have now stitched into a quilt and wrapped around myself, to keep me warm through the winters.

When I went trekking in Nepal, we would wake up at 5.00 am for our morning cup of tea.

My trekking mates and I would huddle under our thick blankets and drink our tea in silence – it was too early, and too quiet for banal conversation. We would eventually get dressed in the dark, preparing for a session of morning yoga.

These morning yoga sessions would always be the hardest – joints stiff from the cold, muscles aching from trekking for long the day before, the mind still muddled from tiredness.

Slowly, slowly, the body will start to loosen up; slowly, slowly, the fog in the head will start to clear; and slowly, slowly, the sun will begin to ascend.

An hour later, we would end the class with a short session of meditation. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the light from the sun, orange veins snaking through my darkened lids. If I listened hard enough, I could almost hear the earth and its life forms unfurling, awakening – leaves and limbs and snouts and feet – welcoming the warmth, the light and silently chorusing, good morning, good morning.

My muscle memory remembers the sanctity of those mornings in a foreign land.

Again, now, I find myself in a cold country and far away from home. The circumstances are much more different – my heart is lighter, my spirit stronger, my mind clearer. But the promise of a cold winter morning persists, drawing me out from my bed even when the temptation to lie warm beneath the blankets is strong.

I pad out into the kitchen, boil water and release the blinds so that I can see the sky. The view from where I am staying right now is very different from the view from my old bedroom so many years ago.

Then, there were rows and rows of short, squat houses, lined neatly, barren trees, and a view of the city I was staying in as far as I could see. And of course, the sky.

Now, there are bigger buildings right in front of the window, but enough sky for me to witness the creeping light. The splendour of the sunrise is different; it arrives quietly without fanfare, pastel colours crossing the sky sedately, a friendship of lilacs and pinks and buttermilk yellow. It is steady and reassuring in its consistency, a reminder that no matter the darkness of the night before, the light of the morning will await.

I make myself a hot cup of coffee, curl up on the couch, and sit in silence.

My mind and body thanks me for this respite.

It is a good way to begin.

Arathi Devandran curates personal experiences, snapshots of the world and the stories people are willing to share with her through prose and poetry

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