Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thai Chai (With Spuckler) from DiviniTea

My first memory is of breath, frustration, and letting go. I am taking a nap with my mother. My head is on her chest, my belly to her belly. I could not have been more than two at that size. I try to match my breathing to her breathing, the rise and fall of my chest and belly to hers, but I cannot inhale and exhale that slowly no matter how hard I try. I give in to my own rhythm, remember no more; I fell asleep.

Yesterday, I was looking at the clouds outside my window, waiting for the big snow storm. We were poised. It was a "hold it" moment. The weather had inhaled, the community waited, and we wondered how big the exhale would be. This morning, for my particular region, the exhale was a gentle one. 

I am energized by that moment before a big storm, especially a rain storm in warm weather when I can be outside to experience it. I remember walking with my good friend Tim when the wind suddenly picked up, the clouds blocked the sun, and we both grinned as we felt the air charge itself. And then the rain poured down. 

Potential verses kinetic energy. I can still see the image in my physics text book of a rock poised on the edge of a cliff to show the height of kinetic energy. 

(I just finished having tea with my two young nieces. I made a pot of Thai Chai, which is the usual flavors of chai (ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom...) with lemongrass too. Verrrry niiiice. Oranges and gluten-free brownies baked by my husband the night before round out our afternoon tea. I read for an hour or so while we all sipped and munched. We are on the third book of the Aikiko series, and it is quite an adventure. Spuckler is our favorite character, and his voice oscillates between cowboy and gangster. Heh. The girls don't seem to mind the inconsistency.)

As a teenager I experimented with (it's not what you think I'm going to say) meditation and the slowing down of my breathing. I suppose that first memory stayed with me, the desire to control my inhale and exhale to match...something else. One evening I lit some incense in my room and settled in to see how slow I could go. I reached a point where the only way I could slow down further was to add the "hold it" moment in between exhales and inhales. My "hold it" got longer and longer, but of course I couldn't hold it forever before exhaling and starting the round again. I can still remember the frustration of not being able to stay in that in-between time: it was so intense and clear. A part of me was unsettled by this desire to stay in the "hold it", and I opened my eyes, blew out the incense, and stopped practicing meditation. It wasn't until I was an adult years later did I feel safe with meditation after a good experience at the end of a yoga class.

My sister-in-law gave me a subscription to YogaGlo.com for Christmas this year. It has tons of online yoga and meditation videos, and helps me organize my routine. What a motivating way to keep moving through the winter. Matching breath and movement are essential to the yoga practice; inhales and exhales to create a conscious slide from one pose to the next. This morning's session was challenging to me because the instructor added a "hold it" aspect. During many of the poses, I had to inhale a move, hold it, then exhale to the next move. I struggled with even three seconds of the in-between breath. 

It is ok. I will keep trying. I shall make tea, watch the snow, and breathe comfortably in my own rhythm.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Earl Grey Hot in a Starbucks Cold

Things unsaid
Like Marley's chains,
Will wrap and warp
Frustration and pain
Until you crawl
In Ophelia's bed;
Your tell-tale heart
Of things unsaid.

It is cold in the cafe this morning. I had planned to go to the library, but it's not open yet, so needed a place to chill for an hour, not assuming it would be literal. I still have my coat on because every time the door opens a firm January wind pokes me from comfort. Scanning the available seats, none are protected. 

The Earl Grey is fine. I was going to go with an herbal blend, but it was hard to pass up my favorite flavor when I'm paying a stupid price for it. A little over-brewed, but that's my own fault. They serve Teavana teas now. I wonder what Starbucks is planning. Will they be able to push the tea bandwagon into American pop culture the way they did with specialty coffee drinks? We shall see.

(Many worries are troubles to write about, seizing my heart throughout the day, but Steepings is not the venue. Private journaling is healthy. I both admire and cringe at people who blog about very personal and specific issues. Yes, I have certainly shared more than I ought over the years in different online places, but I hope I've become more discreet, especially when it involves other people. Yet, reading the intimate details of others' struggles can help get through our own. Memoirs are published everyday with hearts bleeding through the pages. Is blogging any different? In a way. 

A book tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end (the ones I enjoy, anyway), which means picking and choosing the details of "truth" to fit the narrative goal. Plus there's editing, revising, another person editing, publisher's input, until the final product is done. All this changes the raw, immediate emotional trials into a readable book. Blogs are in the moment, raw, and sharing an event before it is fully reflected on. The emotions are still there, not just the memory of them. Yet, being in the midst of emotional events can cloud our perception of what is happening. Does this mean blogs are less accurate than books written months or years later? 

All I know is when I first started writing online years ago (Hello, LiveJournal!) my husband asked me not to share details about our family life. I did anyway, but nothing serious, trying to keep it to silly anecdotes in the midst of other stories to share. Instead of being limiting, this freed me to write all about myself. I'm not being self-centered, I'm respecting privacy! Heh.)

Three men in business suits have met up for a meeting near where I am sitting. One is so obviously better dressed than the other two: not more dressed up, but the style. I'm not fashionista, but even I can appreciate it. Down to the shoes! 

Now I'm looking around at other outfits here: comfy jeans and cozy sweaters mostly. One guy is rockin' slim-fitting blue corduroys. An elderly lady has a long, green plain skirt. She looks very Irish. I hope she is drinking tea.

And me? Um...baggy, boring brown pants with a perfectly placed peanut butter breakfast stain, pilling plaid purple sweater, and salted scuffed Dansko black boots. "D" for style, "A" for alliteration.

Well. I certainly said a lot without saying a thing. Nothing to read here, people, nothing to read. Let us simply sip some tea.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Caramel Mystique from Short and Stout

I have disparate thoughts floating down and piling up like the snow outside my window. Humans have a natural tendency to link things together, to create meaning out of seemingly random events. I suppose it's a coping mechanism in a world we cannot possibly comprehend. Making connections can shape beauty and form from the frightening chaos of life. I suppose that is the purpose of art. But I'm just writing a tea-inspired blog. So what are these thoughts?

First, I'm re-arranging, composing, and organizing a children's musical I wrote years ago. At the same time (in the same room) my daughter is composing her own piece of music. We share the space with the computer that has the programs we need. Acoustically the piano (for me) and the steel drum (for her) are also in the room. My music is very, very silly- the musical is called 'Fundiculous'. Hers is an Easter Alleluia for our church- our most solemn time of the year. There has been some creative spillage. I found myself composing harmonies in my song, "Mediocre Inc." reminiscent of a hymn. Dammit! Scrap it. Get back into my own musical world. Start again.

The novel, "The Help", has been sitting on my shelf for two years, but I finally got to read it. Great book! If you don't know, it's about the race relations in Mississippi back in the 1960's as told by two black women housekeepers and one white woman writer. It tells about the complicated relationships that followed after the horror of slavery ended, but the hope of equality was not achieved. Time magazine this week noted that the hard-won specifics of the Voting Rights Act have been taken away piece by piece in the last few decades. Dammit. Do we have to start again?

I fantasize about travel to Asia. The music of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project fills my home. I want to learn Chinese, even though the one time my friend tried to teach me the simplest phrases, I was so incompetent she gave up. My friend lives in Singapore (where they speak English too) and I want to go-go-go! I lived in Singapore as a child, but have never returned: the expense, raising children, etc. It's a city-state on a tiny island south of Malaysia, two degrees off the equator, and very metropolitan. What a complicated blend of cultures: Chinese, British, Malay, Indian and more, that create a unique Singaporean identity. Damn. I should start saving.

So what brings all these together? Well, tea of course. I drink tea while composing, I drank tea while reading, and I will drink lots and lots of Singaporean tea if I get myself over there! 

It's still snowing. My tea is gone. Darn. I will begin my day letting all these thoughts pile into rounded shapes, drifting insights, and hibernating dreams. 

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Genmaicha On A Cold January Day

Decorating my home for Christmas is fun, but putting everything away is even better. By the time the holiday is over, I am feeling overwhelmed with things. The taking down, throwing away, and boxing up makes me feel free. I re-evaluate what is normally on the walls and shelves, often deciding to keep things bare, enjoying the physical space after the time clutter of festivities. 

Green tea is perfect in January with its wide calmness. The delicate taste can be lost if flavors and spices are infused, if milk and sweetener are added, so I usually drink it simple. However, genmaicha is a version with bits of toasted rice added. The subtle earthy flavor does not detract from the green. When outside my window is cold and asleep, the genmaicha warms my inside, like the memory of harvest.

But I don't hide from winter yet, there is no need to escape into other seasonal fantasies. (I won't be so accepting in March...) January fills me with peaceful images of candlelight, quiet, warm drinks, books, and pretty snow- the snuggling of the year. Not that my life is like a children's picture book, but my expectations slow down this month. Yes, our "regular" routine after the holidays is back, but less traveling, more inside activities, allowing time for weather issues means scheduling lighter, the muted colors framed in the window change my pace.

(Also the end of Christmas music. Things were becoming repetitive this last week on the playlist. Except last night, while the fam was playing the card game "Hearts", a funky version of "We Three Kings" by The Piano Guys, came on. I don't remember hearing that one all month! We put it on repeat to figure out the timing: 4/4 on verses, but 5/4 on chorus...we think. My husband kept giving us "helpful" suggestions like, "I think it's five flat eight on the final measure, right?" This is what I get for peering over his shoulder most days while he's editing genetics papers and giving him "helpful" tips with made-up molecular language. I, of course, am hilarious.)

In seed time learn.
In harvest teach.
In winter enjoy.
-William Blake

I appreciate this triangular approach to the cycle of the year. The enjoyment time is often overlooked in our need to accomplish goals. What if the new year was less about noting failures and gearing up for productivity, and instead more about an acceptance of where we have been, gratitude toward our present selves, and quiet expectation for the discovery of truth? A decluttering of ourselves.

May the spaces you create be filled with joy, and a cup of warm genmaicha on the side.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Aztek Chai from Lil' Buddha Teahouse

Serenely alone, curled up with a book, and pot of tea. Striding through an office, coffee in hand, firing off comments to co-workers. Would the image be the same if the coffee and tea were switched? Where do we get our stereotypes of coffee and tea drinkers? American media, I suppose. Personality types and what we choose to represent us. What does my tea drinking say about me? 

I finished a good non-fiction book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking By Susan Cain. Recommended by a friend, who knows my family is a bunch of introverts, it was worth checking out. It challenges cultural assumptions of what personality traits lead to success. Reserved leaders, humble performers, shy activists: they are more common than you think. 

Like most people, I have both introvert and extrovert traits, but if I had to pick a camp- extrovert. I love the energy in a group of people, though observing is as fun as participating. I enjoy writing alone in a crowded cafe speaking to no one, as well as playing a board game with a group of strangers at a geeky convention. It can be hard to approach a new group, but once I do, I always can make a friend. 

(Lil' Buddha Teahouse is on the funky street in our city. My daughter and I spent an afternoon together. We bought some vintage clothes at a little shop. I hate shopping for clothes, but when there are only a few racks, and all of them are awesome, it makes it fun. I got a perty polka dot dress. We checked out old LPs at the record store, astounded at the covers and what was "cool" a few decades ago. 1970 "Country Hits in Spanish" was the star find for $1. Most of our time was chatting over tea. The Astek Chai was tasty toasty. I brought my knitting with me, and she brought a photography book to flip through. Happy memory from 2014!)

TeaPunk started when my daughter and I returned from a geeky convention that introduced us to steampunk. As lovers of tea, we knew there was a connection beyond just pretending to be proper English. We wanted to have a silly and fun take on tea. We made huge gulping tea mugs, sprayed it on our faces with home-made products, drew geeky tea art, and knitted amusing tea scarves, and sharing it with the world. Bringing the extrovert angle to the introvert beverage image. Of course, writing the blog is a solitary activity. And social media is in between: alone in an online crowd. 

Introvert/Extrovert, Tea/Coffee, Weird or really, really Boring... they are just labels when we're all on a spectrum, drinking whatever suits our fancy at the moment, connecting with people real or fictional, online or across the kitchen table. What does my tea drinking say about me? Whatever I want it to.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.