watercolor painting of tea cupOpening the cabinet door, I remove the white tea cup and set it on the counter. Its stout shape with fluted sides and flared brim vaguely evoke images of a vintage British sun helmet.

I take a tea bag from its box. Organic, green tea. From outside the window a wren sings in the ligustrum. The tea bag is between my fingers—the sound of paper being torn, of water dribbling into the cup, of the click then hum of the microwave—four minutes. I contemplate a painting on the easel. Five birds glide in platinum water. Ding! I slip my finger through the handle. Hot! Being present, I move from the kitchen to the stairs, the stairs to the morning room doorway, to the chair, transfer the cup from my hand to hers.

This cup belongs to another and holds little value for me. However, I do care immensely about the idea of possession, the symbolism of belonging that is attached to this particular cup. I care because another cares. It is a small thing, this tea cup, and light, but the idea of attachment—of belonging to something, to someone—bears weight.

Because she prefers this cup, because she loves to sip green tea from it in that chair, in the quiet of early morning—quiet save for the expression of her breath when she sips, the creak of the chair, the rustle of cotton nightwear, of birdsong. Because of these ritualized moments, I take note long to remember.

This cup of small value, this tangible object has become symbolic of an intangible exchange of life, a priceless artistic expression.

Then again it’s not the cup, nor the tea, nor the singing wren, though each lend their colors to my musing. No, it is the investment of attuned time—moments held in awareness, in gratitude—that inspire me. Often not for the thing itself, but for how it makes me feel. I attach meaning to moments, objects and places, infusing my thoughts and emotions with my visual acquisitions. Like a tea bag seeps in water.

Attaching meaning to things—the melding of motifs, awareness, intellect and emotions becomes art.

This is what I love about painting, about being an artist. Cultivating an awareness and appreciation of ordinary things, recreating these focused moments with paint and love and time allows me to express myself exquisitely.

What value can be placed on observed moments?—on time shared?—on enlightened encounters amid the fog and fires of life?

What value can be placed on a life filled with love?

On an artist steeped in the hot water of life?

On the art that flows from her hands?

On shared morning tea?

On a memory?

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