Saturday, 21 March 2020

A Journey Round the Room

Home-dried mulberry leaves (photo credit: Choong Mi Mi) 

These days, I find myself thinking a lot about the wind.

The rustling of leaves on the trees makes for a great chill-out moment. Like angels dancing, leaves and flowers fluttering on branches present a cheerful sight, for that often means a rousing breeze has come its way. A walk down the street then becomes a cherished one especially when the sun decides to cooperate as it withholds its might -- one wishes the walk will never end as we dwell in the calmness of the soft caress. As fallen leaves dance with the wind on the tarmac roads, the human spirit does a pirouette with them.


In these frantic and anxiety-inducing times when everything is about Covid-19 on the news and I woke up to read on my Facebook feed proclaiming the virus situation to be the World War of this generation, I seek refuge in the wind. From the comforts of my room. 

It's time to go back to the simple. While we take all the necessary precautions we need to keep the virus at bay, it helps to remember that we already have in our arsenal, tools gifted by nature in our fight against the virus -- the wind (and the sun). 

The wind would have cherished its starring role in these Covid-19 times. For it is now that it can raise itself from its underrated rank to the attention it deserves. We see reminders all the time, on newspapers, TV and on the LED informational screens at lift lobbies and in lifts, that we need to keep the windows of enclosed spaces open for ventilation. We need to allow the wind in to do its work. 

T
hat means we can now legitimately ask Grab drivers to wind down the car windows and they will say yes readily with no disgruntled looks cast. As we traverse down the expressway with no glass pane in the way, suddenly, the world gets closer. You feel the wind massaging your face,  sometimes gently, other times packing a punch, but always reassuring and welcoming. You hear the vehicles' engines clearly with all its fits and starts. The world is functioning, not perfectly but it is doing its best. And we do our part to send out positive thoughts and energy to keep the world marching in its beat.


The universe has its way of reminding us to simplify our lives. During this period when our schedules are pared down to the minimum, when we say yes to social commitments only after mentally-calculating the probability of catching the virus, we find that we can afford to go slower. And in doing so, therein lies the opportunity to take a journey within ourselves and alongside everything else which we failed to notice during the humdrum of busy everyday lives. In our rooms, in our neighbourhoods. 

There is great joy in relishing simple pleasures of life and discovering epiphany moments when we adopt a travel mindset wherever we are. That was exactly what a young Frenchman Xavier de Maistre did in the spring of 1790 when he locked himself at home and decided to study the wonders of what lay closest to him and wrote about it in his book titled "A Journey Round my Room". 

A few afternoons ago, I journeyed round a friend 's room. I learnt that refreshing mulberry tea can be had with just home-dried mulberry leaves immersed in hot boiling water. I explored the different ways of cutting wide open a mango, taking into consideration aesthetics and minimizing of wastage. Why haven't I discovered earlier the joy of drying mulberry leaves and mango-carving?

With a travel mindset, we notice the greatness too right in our neighbourhood. In a bus ride around where I live, I witnessed a scene which will not look out of place in Japan. I had boarded a bus where the driver decided it was his responsibility to ensure everyone onboard enjoyed a pleasant journey. At every juncture when the vehicle pulled into the bus bay, he made it a point to announce where it was that the bus had stopped. And after dropping off the alighting passengers and closing the bus doors, he blurted out "Moving off!". All these, he did shyly, with a tone not too loud but enough to be heard as one sat in the bus. You know he doesn't really do this often; perhaps he is making an effort to, in these high-strung times. Such human decency lifts spirits, and I am sure I am not the only one being lifted, for there are passengers smiling, whether it is out of bemusement or heartened gratitude. 

The truth is, we have not been locked away during these cautious times. Instead we have been "granted the privilege of being able to travel round a range of unfamiliar, sometimes daunting but essentially wondrous inner continents" (Book of Life newsletter).

Now, how's another simmering cup of mulberry leaves tea?