It was one of those oven hot July days that slowly unfold out of a truly faultless blue sky.
Those born and raised nearer the equator might well indeed scoff at both our definition of “hot” and our reaction to it, but as far as this particular child of the North is concerned anything higher than the mid 20s is considered to be unnaturally warm, and from the off this day was clearly going to be in that bracket.
Other family members’ solution to the heat problem was to stuff themselves into blast furnace automobiles, boil for 15 excruciatingly hot minutes, and then hurl themselves into a lake only marginally cooler than the surrounding air.
I thought it far better to retreat to the shade-within-shade of a swing hammock close to the forest’s edge, and have a relaxing session with some Nan Nuo sheng Pu-erh leaves.
Having picked some leaf-clumps off the brick and filled a Thermos with boiling water, I made my way out to my chosen spot just as the bathers set off in a flurry of sweaty oaths and banging car doors.
A quick couple of rinses and a 10 second steeping and I was in business.
The intense heat seemed to have a catalytic effect on the tea. The Qi came on like the flick of a light switch illuminating a darkened room. Colours became more intense – the greens and browns of the forest and the red of the barn door acquired an almost neon sheen.
A slight breeze carried the scents of the forest, a living, breathing, pulsating mass heaving water from deep underground and gently exhaling so far overhead.
Bejewelled, peacock-like butterflies, dragonflies, and wasps the size of a thumb floated past, almost in slow motion.
The barn creaked and popped as the hot sun beamed down upon it, heating it up and expanding the joints of its old wooden carcass.
Everything beyond the hammock and the table in front of me seemed to dwell in the limbo of a blinding white heat haze, a foggy half-existence.
The passage of time was distended and twisted between the pouring of hot water, the gentle clink of porcelain, and the decanting of tea soup.
Suddenly my mindful state was punctured by the sound of car engines. The bathers had returned, with soggy towels and sand between their toes.
I had completely lost count of the number and duration of the steepings I had performed on those leaves, yet everything had simply fallen into place in a very Zen like way.
Yet again the sheng time dilation effect had warped a perceived hour into four real-world ones.
It was only much later that evening as I watched mosquitoes fruitlessly battling the insect netting protecting the open skylight in our room that it dawned on me just how good a session it had been, if not the best ever then certainly worthy of a top three spot at the very least.
One never to be forgotten…