fresh mint tea

mint trimmings, early February, Portland, Oregon

This is what happens when you've been sick in bed for days on end. You glance out the window and your eye snags on the ragged nasturtium vines in the big planter on the balcony (having bloomed gaily all through fall until the temperature dipped below freezing, at which point they gave up all attempts at sexual display and threw in their yellow and orange towels, their seeds strewn abed for next season), and suddenly you are outside in your down vest with kitchen shears, snipping off dead parts on the potted herbs, which you'd been meaning to get to for weeks.

And then two minutes later it's done, the dead nasturtiums untangled from the living mint, a little pile for the compost, and you feel productive and alive, dirt under your fingernails—no matter that everything sounds likes it's coming towards you from a tunnel or that your cough is still jagged after a week and a half and your gait toddly. It is good you are not operating heavy machinery.

fresh mint tea in vintage Heath ceramics

Then you stuff the mint trimmings into a teapot and steep the leaves in boiled water, stirring in globs of honey, snapping quick photos, proof of life. You consider taking a shot of your Frankenfinger curled around the teacup, the finger cut on a knife the afternoon before while trying to do dishes before crying while bleeding on the phone to your friend Jeff and begging him to come help you cook because you had no energy and felt so alone. But no one wants to see a jagged red slice of living meat with puffy, healing edges.

You realize you haven't been taking good care of yourself—and that if you don't, no one will—not enough supplements, not enough raw vegetables, not enough time with your cat, not enough laughter and yoga and walks and art and talks with friends, too much worry, too much commuting, too much privation. Balance is hard.

You wonder when your hearing will come back, when you should return to work, whether to see a specialist. "I'm worried," I said to Jeff. "It'll get better," he said. "How do you know?" "Well, it'll either get better or you'll start talking like Marlee Matlin or you'll die."

You remember years ago a friend from Columbia in her kitchen in Alameda with the black-and-white-checked linoleum floor and the painted sun-moon-stars on the walls, your first fresh mint tea, your surprise at the brightness of the essence taken fresh from the living plant. And then you sit and sip and write it up because that's what you'd rather be doing with your days on earth. And it's always been that way. And anything else is a lie.

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