An Exquisite Cup of Assam

Eva Spitzer
Twenty years ago I bought a dilapidated cottage on a hillside which used to be a vineyard, just outside my hometown. Up until then I had lived in twelve different places, many of which I renovated meticulously, but I had not really felt at home in any of them, because they held sad memories, and I would not have wanted to go back to any of them.
My new home was what you could call a disaster area: The hot-water tap was not connected to the hot-water tank – or to any water supply at all, for that matter. The floor boards in the bedroom hosted dry rot fungus, because they were resting on wooden beams resting on bricks which in turn rested on the loamy soil that makes up most of the ground. The foundations were sliding and had to be reinforced, and the roof was leaking. I eventually ran out of clothes baskets and other containers to collect the rain water that was seeping through the ceiling when there was more than a sprinkle of rain. But it was MY place, and I felt at home for the first time in my life.
My beloved Walter passed away on Easter Sunday. My aged mother became entirely dependent on care three months later. And I have been a caregiver for as long as I can remember.
Having looked after my mother for more than a year now, I have hit rock bottom more than once. A few days ago I was given one of those rare breaks that I have been blessed with during this time, and I arrived home to find it occupied by moths, mice and spiders once again. This morning, after a blissful sleep of thirteen hours, I awoke to fragile rays of autumn sunshine trying to creep their way into my bed, a soft reminder of Walter kissing me awake.
I struggled out of bed to treat myself to a breakfast of amber-coloured Assam tea, toast, butter and jam. For the first time in sixteen months I had breakfast on my balcony, looking out over the fir trees and softly undulating hills, imagining the plains of Slovenia that lie behind them. The sun was gaining strength giving me a warm and comforted feeling, and almost imperceptibly I felt at one with the love of my heart.
I have experienced fleeting moments of tranquillity and contentment watching the eclipse of the moon, walking on pillows of moss along the rugged coast of Ireland, touching the rocks of Uluru (Ayers Rock), exploring the winding gorges between the domes of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) enchanted by their unequalled magic, taking in the spirit of Aboriginal cave paintings, listening to the didgeridoo, smelling the scent of mountain thyme in Greece.
But to find that peace of mind that I have been searching for all my life in the one place where I have ever felt at home, where I have found roots to hold me and a sense of belonging, surpasses description.
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