12.28.2013

READING THE TEA LEAVES




Last weekend I was stricken with the cold from hell, the one that seems to be sweeping across the country. I shivered with fever, every bone ached and even my brain was wracked with pain until finally, mercifully, my body slipped into a sleep so deep that I barely woke for 36 hours.  When I got sick the skies were dark with icy rain and snow; when I came to, drenched in sweat, fever breaking, Christmas was upon us and I was told that I had missed a spring day of 70-degree warmth.

And so the world rapidly cycles, in sickness and in health, with life and with death, through love and through loss. In my wrung-out lethargy I looked back over the year, and thought, it was a big year. My older son proposed marriage to his beloved; they will soon marry, and it gives me deep joy to see their bliss. My younger son will finish a course of studies and set out to…well, I was about to say, “find” his path. But we don’t find paths, do we? We carve them, into what seem like impenetrable terrains, never certain where exactly we are going; even when we are certain we are fooling ourselves. 

Babies were born to friends, friends were lost to illness. It was a big year. But every year is a big year. Every day is a big day. That is what we realize when we are older. That we are lucky enough—and that is all it is, plain dumb luck—to be here makes it a big day, a big year.

My family gathered in Rhode Island for the holidays. After days of illness I was able to stand upright without being dizzy, and I felt refreshed, as if the fever burned to ash something bitter I had not quite gotten done with, and needed to. Theo presented his brother and fiancee with a beautiful tea cake, a pu’erh, as a wedding gift. He explained, it gets better with age. Every year the couple is to have a tea ceremony to mark the occasion of their anniversary, and every year, like their marriage--we are certain of it--the tea will taste richer and deeper and yield up a bit more of its mystery.

Theo led the first ceremony, pouring water into a tiny pot, letting it brim over and pool in a deep bowl, and as we drank—and drinking tea, quietly, meditatively, is one of my favorite things to do—the sun broke through the sodden clouds that had cast a grey pallor on the day.

A flash of midday brilliance sparkled through the holly trees. If this were my usual cup of tea, I would have simply stared in wonder at the shifting light, the life, the pallor. Instead, I noticed the drama outside, and then turned my gaze back into the room.

I am here. Everything I love, and everything I need, is right here with me.  For a moment, I live in a charmed circle.  Luck gives us another day. Love makes it a holy day. May your new year brim.

27 comments:

Jane said...

where can I get a tea cake?

Judith said...

"Every day is a big day." Words to live by.

Belvane said...

So good to have you back. Blessings for your new year!

Patty said...

Love the tea cake idea -- something tangible for a couple to look forward to each year gives them something to shoot for. I know, it's only a small thing, but sometimes that's all it takes. Might have worked for me, but who knows. Glad you are over that horrid sickness (I had it too, on Christmas day -- so brutal it realigned my entire being). Happy New Year!!

JSBB said...

Thanks -- wonderful to read your message. Your voice --and you -- have been missed. I, for one, am hoping you'll find time for a longer project soon.

Best wishes for many, many lucky days to come!

William said...

Oh my lord. Such a fuss over a cold. Just kidding! Take some Nyquil and have some wild dreams.

MJH Design Arts said...

Hi Dominique, Thank you for this beautiful post. Yes, it was an amazing year! We do carve out our paths in life; thankfully, there are always new twists and turns in which to grow and become more of who we are. Congratulations to your oldest son--love is the most amazing gift of all. Happy New Year 2014...I wonder what is in the offing for all of us. Blessings. Mary

Terra Brockman said...

Lovely thoughts and images as the year comes to a close. Thank you.

LindaB said...

Thank you, Dominique. Take care. Don't do too much too soon. A tea cake? What a lovely and ancient ritual. Happy New Year!

Helane said...

Oh how I love this post - especially the last paragraph. Such a moment of absolute clarity and you express it so well. Thank you for all your wonderful writing and for touching my heart this morning.

dterrydraw said...

Oh, Lord.....please don't remind me of the Christmas (I think it was about fifteen years ago) when my scatty-brained & irresponsible & notoriously lazy and now EX-sister-in-law showed up with her kids.....mumbling something about their seeming "sick". They were, indeed, sick (had the flu, to be exact), and my mother and I both came down with it on Christmas Eve. Both of us are the sort who just don't catch colds or the flu....but we did that time. We spent the next three entire days in bed (I have no idea what sort of flu this was, but it was a-w-f-u-l). I recall being vaguely aware that a lot of folks came in and out and by and through the house. We both got out of our beds (actually, I slept on a couch in a front room, since I didn't/couldn't want to make the effort to go to one of the bedrooms) on the evening of December 26th...wondering what had happened to and with Christmas while we'd been trapped in an achey and vomit-y twilight zone. I hadn't eaten in a couple of days and recall sitting at the kitchen window, drinking a very salty cup of microwaved bullion and thinking it was the BEST FOOD I HAD EVER EATEN. for better or worse, I don't recall having experienced the slightest twinge of revelatory gratitude or philosophical awakening....although I do recall my mother's weakly joining me in the kitchen, where we both agreed that we really hated that woman and her damn kids. We didn't SAY that to her, of course; we are, if nothing else, fairly polite to houseguests while they're still in the house.


I just realized that today is New Year's Eve......


Happy New Year,
David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

karensandburg said...

Please. Write a book already!

karenrand said...

A lovely post..I am reminded that I do indeed have a pu'erh tea cake, which I discovered courtesy of The Head Butler, who I discovered through you. So I am making my tea now, and being grateful for the things I have discovered this year through the musings and discoveries of other, remarkable people. Wishing you a wonderful and creative 2014, Dominique... I look forward to following you on the path you are carving.

Judith said...

Oops, David, don't start celebrating yet! Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Wishing you a happy, and VERY healthy 2014.

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Sheryl said...

"It was a big year. But every year is a big year. Every day is a big day. That is what we realize when we are older. That
we are lucky enough—and that is all it is,
plain dumb luck—to be here makes it a big day, a big year."

Yes! Well said. Blessings, healing and returning physical strength to you. I am so happy when you write a post! So happy to see you here! Happy to see the regular commenters here, too. Be kind to yourself and pace your return to every day activities. I am glad you were with your loved ones for Christmas. Congratulations to the happy couple. It is just lovely to watch and experience the growth of FAMILY. Blessings. Sheryl from Puget Sound

sheila wilensky said...

We must be of a similar age. I feel the same way. Same to you in 2014.

Carol said...

I was just rereading your "Little Things Add Up" post of Jan 2, 2013. I so loved all that you said and have read it a number of times through the year and have tried to follow-up myself on those New Year suggestions of yours. It seems this present post, "Reading the Tea Leaves", touches on some of the same feelings. I'd love to see a new "Little Things Add Up" for 2014 or maybe just repost last year's for those new to your blog. It's a keeper. Happy New Year to you. I appreciate the thought that goes into your posts and love reading them. Glad you're back and hoping for many more posts in the coming year.

Carol said...

Sorry this falls under the reply to sheila but I don't seem to be able to reply just to the blog itself.

sam said...

i hadn't expected to start the day reading and weeping, but this certainly isn't the first time your keen observations and beautiful, evocative writing have choked me up. i hope your new year is as full and bright as the lights strung on the bridge that shine through the window of your new apartment. and thank you (again) for your always wonderful words.

Mia said...

So strange, I too got very sick after spending 4 days with my grand kids over the holidays, I knew i had to get going early that morning as "the other side" was on their way. Hugged my grand kids, some still sleeping and my son and daughter in law and got on the road to beat the traffic.Within 20 minutes I started with a sore throat and aches in my body that were horrific, The only thing that kept my mind off the pain was trying to dodge the huge trailer trucks passing me going at least 80. 3 hours under my belt I knew I had to stop. I needed gas and something to sip on so I pulled of an exit that happened to have a Burger King at the end of the ramp . When I got out of the car my legs and arms and hands' back even my feet hurt so much I walked in like a hunched over 100 year old. One look at the menu and i had a surge of nausea so strong i ran for the restroom. I ordered a large Tea to go and for some reason a small soft serve in a cup. Thankfully the gas station next door was full serve so I could sit in the car as he filled it. Next to the gas station was a hotel and I toyed with the idea of checking in and going to bed, I thought better of it though...I new i was getting worse and I wanted my own home and doctor. So on I drove put on the best music I could find a New Age CD Winter Solstice, and kept going. sipping hot tea, watching the soft serve melt to white milk, blowing my horn at the jack ass that cut in front of me way to close. Finally three hours later i pulled into my Doctors office and hoped someone could see me. Someone finally did 2 hours later two xrays and the verdict... pneumonia. 3 prescriptions, I hobbled around the drugstore with a basket throwing Kleenex, ginger ale Popsicles and ibuprofen. Finally they called my name over the intercom to get my prescriptions and i managed to to get home inside mt garage, drag myself up to my bed and sleep for 4 days getting up only to use the bath I figured i had at least 15 showers sometimes to warm up sometimes to cool off. Taking my antibiotics religiously I have turned the corner. I feel so lucky to have made it home. My family took to texting me several times a day, of course i wouldn't want anyone around me and am praying no one else gets it.
I loved your story, lucky for you to be able to make your celebration in Rhode Island. A Christmas to remember.My New years Eve celebration is ginger ale, Gatorade and here is a little secret, I am having my soup delivered from the local Chinese Restaurant with some fortune cookies.

dterrydraw said...

Oh, Mia.....your comment just reminded me that ginger ale and saltine-crackers (just the plain variety--nothing fancy, thank you) were my grandmother's go-to solution for anyone with the flu or any sort of generalized, invalid-making, yucky, knock-you-to-the-ground flu or cold. The lady ran an orphanage in rural Tennessee for two decades and, so, presumably knew what she was doing.
----david terry

Mia said...

Yes, I always used ginger ale, as did my mother, for anyone that was sick in the family. Saltines were also a cure, isn't that funny, but you jogged a memory, I remember my mother always saying that ginger ale and saltines "settled the stomach". The gatorade is a new thing, for some reason probably watching my kids drink this stuff to prevent dehydration, I had some left over from the hot days this summer and decided I could use some hydration, My Italian grandmother always insisted on anything with garlic in it. She drove my mother crazy, insisting that we have garlic cloves in chicken soup when we were babies.
As an adult I always have certain foods in the pantry to make just in case I get ill. I usually have saltines, ginger ale and a box of popsicles, that I end up throwing out every three months. Also, for some unknown reason I crave Campbells tomato soup, Kraft dinner and fresh cut up cantaloupe and watermelon. I just did an internet order at our local Stop & Shop to be delivered today. I ordered all my favorite "sick" foods and some extras, I had to reach $60.00 for free delivery, so I went a little crazy, lots of fruit, a cheese danish, pre made meals that sounded pretty good and a step up from Campbells soup, to Panara Bread soups. I was up over 60.00 pretty quick!

Darlene said...

This is so beautiful....a family's future unfolding over a simple cup of tea. I think those tea leaves foretell little girls with dolls and miniature tea sets, and a little boy perhaps breaking a prized tea cup or two.

Warren Sly said...

Lately if I can stomach it, Diet Mountain Dew is my go-to remedy for flu. It's awful in taste and color. Don't bother with ice. Maybe a splash or orange juice. On a really bad sick day I average three or four. The caffeine... well there IS a lot of that. I can still sleep through it. But the yucky combination keeps me one level above zombie, so when I MUST function with a little parenting I still can. Gald we all survived 2013... sometimes with elan (is that a French word), sometimes on our knees. But with and thanks to Grace.

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