Lately I’ve been blessed to explore some western landscape.  Traveling through northwest Utah, one is witness to huge expanses of rock, very vertical as well as intricately layered horizontally.  From the valley, one also sees vertical forests of pine, and in the distance, more hills and snow-capped mountains just below the clouds.  Even places most distantly visible to the eye are touchable through narrow trails that resemble random squiggly doodles.

While in Utah, I began reading Terry Tempest Williams’ most recent book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.  She reminds me how community is not just people, but also the land and all forms of life and sentient beings.  Being touched by the landscape, and with this book in my consciousness, when I discovered Desert Sage tea in a small town called Logan, Utah, I was instantly drawn to it.  Just as reading Williams’ book while in Utah made my experiences all the more potent, so did drinking tea made from components of the local landscape.  This particular tea was made predominantly with white sage (fields of sage grow wild throughout the west).  Its label reminded me that what may appear as weeds can transform when dried, crushed, crumbled, and steeped in hot water.

Williams has a remarkable knowledge of the plants and animals of her local community.  My idea of community began to expand from solely human-based ethics and political affiliations to the plant life and animals I witnessed around me.  How arbitrary whether a state’s political color is red or blue becomes when such a deep ecological reality exists as community as well!  How powerful to taste tea from what grows around you, to learn the names and uses of what comes naturally from the earth.

While I am here in the west, I hope to try more kinds of tea from local plants.  Certainly more sage as well as juniper tea and iced mint tea.  Juniper tea can be made with one tablespoon of juniper berries to one cup of boiling water, steeped for 20 minutes.  Research shows juniper tea proves helpful for bladder infections.  For sage tea, the ratio is one teaspoon of dried sage or one tablespoon of fresh to one cup of water.  A lemon wedge or honey also goes well with this tea.  Dandelion root tea is another popular tea made from “weeds.”

Perhaps being a tea lover will inspire you to learn more about the plants in your community.  To most deeply enjoy a place, it helps to utilize all senses – tea is a great way to taste the landscape you find yourself in.  I can already imagine that my view of the mountains will look that much more extraordinary with a cup of steaming juniper tea from a tree along the trail in my hands.