It is early, and the street lights have just winked out, a polite cough of a reminder to the night that the day has up until now been waiting patiently, but has a lot to do today, so if you really don’t mind…
The book is open on the table before me. It tells me all about the great and famous teas of the Middle Kingdom, the legends and myths associated with them, how best to prepare them.
It talks about how the making of a beverage out of leaves and water can become a ritual, an art form, an exercise in meditation.
Music, calligraphy, poetry, flower arrangements, all this and more can play a part, and yet…
And yet, it concludes, each individual tea ceremony is unique. All of the above, none of the above.
Just as the world as a whole is the aggregate of the experiences of every living being, a single tea ceremony will be remembered differently by every person attending it.
My own tea ceremony comprises of a table, a chair, the tea, the water, the teaware, and the bridge. Its elegant span and silence are all I need.
The bridge connects two countries, as the tea in my cup connects me to Yunnan, and all the people who work in a tea garden I will never see.
As I look out over the snow covered beach and the bitterly cold water of the bay, I think about how I drank white tea in the mad heat of mid-summer, when the sun threatened to boil the pavements, and turned the same sea into a brilliant mirror firing out laser beam reflections that could singe your retina in a second.
As I sip each cup I recall tea-times when the bridge was hidden behind the fogs of both autumn and spring, and how I have admired aromas and taste profiles as both the moon and the sun have risen and set above and behind it.
Contemplating the span of the bridge allows my mind to focus on the duality of things – the now and the then, the near and the far, the hot and the cold, the new and the old, the entirety of the universe, and the world inside my tea cup.
But then I find that my cup is empty, and the spell is broken.
I must feed the cat, and prepare breakfast.
The humdrum and everyday screams for attention, but a trace of the tea experience remains, wrapped around the mundane, like a new layer of growth deposited around a pearl.