Those familiar melancholy notes which always accompany the close of a Northern Hemisphere summer are now in full symphony: shorter days, suddenly; soft, warm air with chilly, foreboding undercurrents; bright sunshine above but the first yellowing, fallen leaves below. This minor chord season is always a good time to reflect on the period which just ended. What did Summer bring us? What did we learn, how did we grow during it? Hopefully there was mega fun, direct doses of Vitamin D, skinny dips and hot kisses. And hopefully we shifted some- what in a forward motion.
The end of Summer for me has always been a bit like New Year’s Eve is supposed to be—a period of reflection, assessing lessons learned or recalling loves lived and lost. The approaching Autumn has a dreamy, otherworldly feel that allows one to wallow a tad in memories. This year I have especially much to ponder and recall. Summer offered up a blend of emotional highs and lows I had not experienced in many years (I listened too closely to the Sirens’ song and jumped overboard) along with the concomitant opportunities for inner exploration and growth. During such delectable feasts one tends to gorge—and purge.
It was a summer of digging deep, not always liking what was found or felt but ultimately feeling lighter for having several unneeded layers lifted and chiseled away. My only true and constant companion throughout was tea. And my deepest tea sessions, indeed among the most fantastic of my life, all took place outdoors.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to get it all together and enjoy preparing tea outside, other than lack of imagination and fear of grass stains, but now that I have, there’s no turning back. I want to encourage all our readers to get out there and enjoy whatever last warm days there are in the company of a faithful friend who loves unconditionally and brings a depth of comfort and clarity which few two-legged pals can muster.
Here in Estonia one is never far from a forested patch to sit down in, plant one’s muladhara squarely down onto living, pulsating earth and plunge into an experience which finds oneself in a dance among the five elements. Preparing and drinking tea in such an environment reconnects with an ancient tradition in which people – tea masters and simple folk alike—collected water, made a fire and brewed one of Nature’s gifts in the same environment in which it had grown.
Tea helped make the connection between Earth and Heaven through the physical self immediate and transcendent.
For many centuries, human interaction with the tea plant, whether in tending to its leaves or drinking its nectar, likely happened in the company of a gentle breeze, shaded from the sun by treetops, and among snapping twigs and buzzing bugs. If not forced to take shelter from inclement weather, people naturally gravitated towards drinking tea in the environment in which it had been born.
The How & Why
What do you need for a proper tea picnic? A gas burner (the butane-powered, inexpensive kind available at almost any hardware or camping shop); a kettle (glass which can handle direct flame, clay or stainless steel); a teapot; as many cups as friends with you, and into which you can fully pour out the pot’s contents; a few tea towels; tea; fresh water (ideally spring); and sharpened senses.
Almost any spot will do, even a public park, if that’s all that’s available. Better still a forest, wooded area, beachfront, cliff, bog, tundra . . . the more Nature—the more open space – the better. When wandering around looking for an appropriate space, try to let the spot pick you; try to sense which space wishes to host your tea session. Let your inner voice guide you to a place which feels right.
Tea has a way of relaxing inner tensions such that one’s true voice speaks out in security and comfort. Most of us have experienced such beautiful unfoldings of the soul during tea sessions, where suddenly the veils of mind noise seem to part, masks fall off, the heart opens up and things are said (or comfortably left unspoken) which would otherwise not be expressed. Often, a connection between the people present becomes palpable, firm, comfortable. The most beautiful gift we can offer others is a space in which they can truly be themselves, and drinking tea is one of the most powerful ways to offer such a space.
When tea is shared outdoors, its soul-opening aspects appear to be magnified; that which tea naturally encourages in people seems to be enhanced and deep- ened just by being in natural, unthreatening surroundings. If tea generally relaxes the spirit to allow thoughts and feelings to surface, then this effect is magnified by the natural elements.
This is true even when by oneself, and especially true when sharing tea with another. Sometimes, what transpires during tea sessions is unexpected, pure magic, like gaining a privileged view into the deeper aspects of others, and certainly also of yourself. There are times when it seems as if pure emotions, kept under lock and key in remote, distant areas, suddenly come bubbling up to the surface.
Amazing too, when making tea on a forest floor, the tea and teaware seamlessly blend into their surroundings. Tea leaves placed into a bowl or pot look as if they could have been picked up from the ground: the Japanese tea scoop I used once got lost among the pieces of darkened birch bark lying near it. It’s easy to believe that you are drinking up the very surroundings.
Have Tea Will Travel was written by Steve Kokker and originally published by Global Tea Hut in September, 2012. Global Tea Hut has generously granted permission to T Ching to publish past articles from their publication each week. These will appear on Wednesdays.