Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Musings

photo by Tara Crowley

Over the weekend I enjoyed a small pot of black tea (loose leaf) in one of my lovely teacups.  It was such a soothing and delightful break in my day, it made me wonder why I don't do it more often.  Turns out it is the perfect refreshment between lunch and dinner, and the caffeine and sugar gives one a boost to counter the mid-afternoon blahs.  Of course, people around the world have known this forever.  I'm a little slow on the up-take.

My interlude got me thinking about two memorable tea events in my life (this is how seldom I do it up right):  A zen tea ceremony at Naropa University, and high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, for my 50th birthday.  Both were quite the occasion, singular events steeped (no pun intended) in tradition.  My English tea was served as 'high tea,' which is to say it was served at a high table with savory and sweet finger foods.  Served in a grand Victorian style room with palms and a beautifully laid table, I was aware that I was partaking in an ages old ritual.  The Zen tea ceremony is also ages old, very prescribed behavior which is aimed at focusing participants on mindfulness and meditation.  The host of such a ceremony folds the napkins a particular way, slowly and ceremoniously, stirs the thick pasty tea methodically.  All induced a trance like state for me.  The tea bowl is passed amongst the participants who drink from it communally.

The two ceremonies couldn't be more different.  The elaborate elegance of the English versus the simple austerity of the Zen.  Both have their charm.   The tea vessels illustrate this well: the delicate hand-painted bone china and the irregular earthenware bowl.  The ying and yang

Feels like that these days: the simple comfort of drinking tea in the afternoon versus the die-ins at Macy's and Apple stores.  Life is both those things.  It's all that.  And a bag of chips.

8 comments:

  1. You bring back good memories. Some years back, I had high tea in the Empress with my daughter and granddaughter. We wore hats and skirts but found most of the partakers looked like tourists with no sense of the ritual. Wish more remembered what ritual means to a culture :)

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    1. we encountered the same thing at the Empress -- people dressed down. I guess it's the times. But it's such an elegant service, high tea, I think it demands a little dressing up.

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  2. I've never been to a tea ceremony, but I did spend a lot of time at Naropa and I drink English Breakfast tea everyday! I think in some ways we create our own rituals, and draw upon the ancient ones to infuse our connections to the larger world. Love the photo, Tara.

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    1. oh, I thought of you when I was telling the story, R. I'm having the English Breakfast in the afternoon. Drinking outside the box, you might say.

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  3. hey babe, I never attended a T ceremony, but I do have a dog named T ikwa and a wife named T ara...and for what it's worth, I really loved your essay today.

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  4. Thank you for this delightful post! It stirred wonderful memories. I spent several years studying cha no yu at Uresenke in Kyoto and to this day am grateful for the special world to which I was introduced: the smell and texture of thick tea whipped to a foamy froth, the beautiful bowls with their poetic names, the feel of tatami, and the exquisite choreography of the art itself. During the years my parents lived in Canada high tea at the Victoria was a major holiday treat. When that tree of tea treats would come out my heart would soar.

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    1. oh, I'm so glad you also have these great memories of tea rituals. your description of the green tea ceremony is much better than mine!

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