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"Let The Colors Be", by Susana Laborde-Blaj

As much as I love to teach, I also love my free days. On free days, life goes a little bit slower, and sometimes pajamas are required, with the risk of being seen by the neighbors in my sleeping outfit while watering the garden or getting the mail.

It was one of those days when I decided to take a long, very long time, to have my chocolate.

When I say chocolate, I say something that has a lot of meaning to me. In Oaxaca, where I used to live before coming to Portland, they have these amazing stores where one can go and ask for a specific quantity of cacao nibs, plus a specific quantity of almonds and cinnamon sticks, to make what we call a “molienda”. They put all these ingredients, in front of one’s eyes, in a beautiful, simple and powerful machine that melts them, so that their hot unctuous smell fills the whole room…

Ok, if I begin to tell you all the things I love about chocolate, maybe I will never finish my story. And I have a story to tell.

In Portland, I have discovered a few different brands of raw organic cacao, I tried them all and always found something delicious in them. Also, since I heard that turmeric is good to decrease inflammation in the joints, when accompanied by black pepper, I always add these spices to my beloved hot chocolate, and sometimes a hint of chili powder.

The almond milk mixed with water was almost boiling, so I slowly poured it with one hand, on top of the chocolate, turmeric, black pepper, chili powder and honey, as I simultaneously stirred with the other hand in a pretty forceful way, so that the ingredients would completely dissolve into each other. That gesture adds some foam, and gives some of the Mexican character that I love so much.

I sat in my usual spot at the table. Carefully, I positioned the mug in front of myself, the lovely mug I got a month ago at a garage sale, for one dollar. The hot liquid seemed to make a gesture, just like a tired but happy person would make as they sat on their favorite sofa, back home from work, at the end of the day. This was the morning, of course, but I truly believe that that was the gesture my perfect chocolate was making, completely filling the emptiness of the beautiful mug, confident and cozy.

I have been wearing glasses for a few years (15, maybe). But, for some reason, there are some activities that I prefer to do without them. Teaching, drinking and eating are among those activities. So, in the precise moment that I was about to drink my chocolate, I was not wearing glasses. I began to drink it with my eyes, though, as well as with my nose. The senses were fully enjoying that moment of anticipation.

Touching the mug, I could feel the right temperature, knowing that I would love the taste, but not burn my mouth or tongue, which is extremely unpleasant!

The chocolate seemed to approach my face like the main and powerful character of a movie approaches the lens of the camera… Maybe it was Darth Vader, so not the main character. (Or is he the main character?). The echo of the movie’s music was gently ringing in my ears, as the chocolate approached my lips, and then: it happened.

In front of my "unable to focus" eyes, a constellation of colors appeared, circles of the purest pink, green, blue, orange, shades of purple, each shining and festive, almost dancing as I sipped the chocolate. It happened because all the elements were there, all came on time to the appointment, the foam, the light above, each perfect bubble in the foam, and how I was tilting the mug as I took another, and another slow, very slow sip.

I had never seen something like this. I repeated the gesture, and my friends the glowing circles reappeared, showing their particular identical patterns: a horizontal line that crossed them, not exactly at the middle, suggesting a hat to my feverish eyes, and then an intricate pattern, like a labyrinth or a long serpent curled inside its egg. As I watched them, they were literally moving. I have an imaginative mind, but this was not my imagination: they were moving.

In the background, many other same shape circles shined in silver, marching like festive soldiers for whom war does not exist, and, as I stared at them, some got transformed into vibrant, brilliant and beautiful colors.

I very, very slowly sipped, since when I tilted the mug in that specific way, having my eyes exactly in that position, my friends (by now, they could be called my friends) appeared and shared their candor and enthusiasm with me.

An idea came to my mind. I have a lovely camera that has been my companion for awhile, and I have seen her (yes, it’s a “her”) perform amazing feats. My thought was as follows: If I see this because my eyes can’t focus, and it’s not a product of my imagination, maybe I can reproduce a similar image with the camera. I knew that, even if the camera could do the “not focus” part, she might have a different interpretation than me, but I still went to fetch her.

I took some photos of the foam, which the camera automatically focused, and then I tried with a different setting, to a point where it did not focus. The red square in the screen was the camera telling me “I cannot focus”, and that was the moment: the circles appeared, seen through the eyes of the camera. It was not the same vibrancy, they looked more opaque and motionless, of course, but they were there! Green, pink, purple, and even their patterns, not as distinct as with my eyes, but still there.

Sometimes I think that I need to change the way I see things, the habitual way I have to see. I know that if I do, if my perception changes, my experience will be different, as well as my understanding of the world. This event seemed to tell me: change your perspective, don’t focus the way you usually do, let the world surprise you, let the little shining friends come and do their multicolored dance, let the colors be.

My wanting to repeat the experience, sometimes with success and sometimes with disappointment (since the conditions are not always the same), gives me another hint: yes, this is lovely, but don’t get too attached, not even to this.

Let the colors be.

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