The spring tea harvest in Alishan, Taiwan May 2013
I have glanced into tea leaves, and found a forest. Tea is all in a moment, and a way of life. It is recollection, and attention to Nature. A murmur of the breeze through the trees of Autumn, and the warm of the hearth. Silent mornings at home, when rain streaks the windows' panes. If you analyze tea, you'll find chemical components, but not a hint of Life. Analysis is achieved through concentration, Synthesis arrives through relaxation. Tea relaxes the stomach, but it revitalizes the Heart. ~Tim Maxwell
I take this writing to heart. Over the past few years, I find that I don't drink tea much at work anymore. The reason is that I don't have time to be with the tea. The flavor and subtleties are lost on me as I focus on the screen and my tasks. Instead, I drink an herbal brew and reserve my special teas for when I have the space to appreciate them. Oh, if I really need a caffeine pick-me-up, I may pull out something. And I have a few nice teas for the rare times when I'm chatting uninterrupted with a colleague or taking a quiet break. But mostly, I wait to drink tea when it can have more of my attention.
(Scroll down about half way at the link above to find the audio controls)
This is a poem that reminds me to be gentle with people, not to assume that I know what is under the surface.
Tulips by Sylvia Plath
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here. Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in. I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands. I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions. I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut. Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in. The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble, They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps, Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another, So it is impossible to tell how many there are.
My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently. They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep. Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage — My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox, My husband and child smiling out of the family photo; Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.
I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat stubbornly hanging on to my name and address. They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations. Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head. I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.
I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty. How free it is, you have no idea how free — The peacefulness is so big it dazes you, And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets. It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me. Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby. Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds. They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down, Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color, A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.
Nobody watched me before, now I am watched. The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins, And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips, And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself. The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.
Before they came the air was calm enough, Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss. Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise. Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine. They concentrate my attention, that was happy Playing and resting without committing itself.
The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves. The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals; They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat, And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me. The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea, And comes from a country far away as health.
Camellia leaves, downed by the rain, on the verdant green grass
Song of the Flower XXIII by Khalil Gibran
I am a kind word uttered and repeated By the voice of Nature; I am a star fallen from the Blue tent upon the green carpet. I am the daughter of the elements With whom Winter conceived; To whom Spring gave birth; I was Reared in the lap of Summer and I Slept in the bed of Autumn. At dawn I unite with the breeze To announce the coming of light; At eventide I join the birds In bidding the light farewell. The plains are decorated with My beautiful colors, and the air Is scented with my fragrance. As I embrace Slumber the eyes of Night watch over me, and as I Awaken I stare at the sun, which is The only eye of the day. I drink dew for wine, and hearken to The voices of the birds, and dance To the rhythmic swaying of the grass. I am the lover's gift; I am the wedding wreath; I am the memory of a moment of happiness; I am the last gift of the living to the dead; I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow. But I look up high to see only the light, And never look down to see my shadow. This is wisdom which man must learn.
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."
I could have cleaned the office, folded the laundry or washed the dishes. Instead, I made tea. A far-away but near-in-heart friend had sent some Fenghuang Shuixian. I wanted time to taste this tea, sit alone with it and write a long letter to this friend.
Delicious tea made exquisite by the moment.
Though I drank alone, I poured two cups: One for me and one for my friend. I love that tea can connect us at the heart level when we open to it.
PS - Happy National Poetry Month! Each post this month will include a poem.
I've been adding red (in various shades including red-orange and red-pink) to the home color palette. These red chairs and plates are the most recent celebrations of color. And it just so happened that a friend was stopping by. A perfect reason to use the new stuff!
We had enjoyed lunch at a nearby restaurant and came home with baklava. I made tea. I had this lovely golden saffron sugar (a Persian treat, used to sweeten tea) and noghl (almond slivers covered in rose sugar). The sweets came with love from a friend's parents in Iran. This tea time became an unplanned Persian celebration. Serendipitous timing as we neared Persian New Year. Welcome Spring!
Can you spot the barely domesticated creature below? That's my DH - dear hubby.
The photo below is my favorite image of this post, as it captures the peace that comes after hosting a friend for tea. That moment, that glow, that quiet lingering of sweetness before the dishes are done and life's routines resumed.