Saturday, May 20, 2006

What has been hidden

While it has been over a year since moving from one coast to the other, some of the changes are just beginning to sink in for me. For one thing, the seasons are dramatically different. The Bay Area is relatively the same all year long. On the west coast, it takes a person several years of close attention to begin to distinguish between the seasons. There isn’t the quarterly ritual of bringing out seasonal clothes heralding the upcoming changes in weather. In this neck of the woods, it is quite another story. One needs a separate wardrobe for each season. I came grossly unprepared and within a month I was initiated with my very own stay-puff down jacket, various helmet-head producing hats and puffy booties, reminiscent of moon boots circa the 80’s. When I last resided in the East, winter had a great rap. The snow and its trimmings were associated with Santa, hot chocolate, snow ball fights, running around slipping-n-sliding and the magic of a hoped for school closing. Now that I am older and those that I jet around with are older too, winter seems to wear out its welcome pretty fast. Before the first snowfall, there is palpable anticipation that quickly turns into a frozen grimace-and-bear-it countenance. By the time spring comes, there is a collective audible sigh of relief for making it through yet another season of ice and freeze.

These past 6-8 weeks I have been in a kind of tween season reverie. Just like my environment, I am slowly absorbing and relaxing into my new home and the obvious mental observations that I took in last year are hitting me differently. My eyes have been fixed upon a curious ovoid shape of earth surrounded by an asphalt moat in the front of the home where I live. During the frozen months, the entire garden is silenced under a crystalline pillow which blots out any discernible landmarks. As the icy entombment melts, the bones of the garden are revealed. At first thin twiggy shrubs and stick trees collaborate with stoic rock borders to reveal nothing short of soldierly conduct. There is actually a brief period when everything within seems to hold its breath in fear of a sneak attack blast of cold. And then it is as if every member of Eden knows to relax and the birds on cue begin to sing. The soil plumps from grit dirt grey to luscious loam cocoa. Tiny pale green sprouts poke their heads through the dirt to later surge, climb and sprawl. Every day form pushes through from the underbelly of life, and it is always new, eternally exciting and highly articulated. As I circumnavigate this fecund womb I cannot help but be pulled into the soup underneath. Day after day I read with studied anticipation the stories newly formed on the surface. Atop, I revel and remark upon the bright shiny faces of newly blushed flowers. But I travel in secret wonder from petal to stem- down shoot to root to seed in dark silent question. In honor of staring into the mystery, my taste buds seek out exotic Lapsang Souchong, a black tea from China that is smoked over pine boughs to impart an aged tarry depth to its brew. It is a tea that startles me with its pale honeyed color and thin liquor. After inhaling a rich nose full that hints of raisin, tobacco and a tint of astringent resin, I expect a mouthful of something fuller and more substantial; something that I can chew, perhaps something like a milkshake. But this is part of its complexity. Lapsang is assertive and bracing, then warm and lingering. It is finally and delightfully a surprise in delicacy. After a half-hearted futile search for Lapsang that spanned over a year, I finally broke down and ordered some online from Upton Tea Imports, self proclaimed purveyor of the world’s finest loose teas. My tea finally “shows up” after two medium winters and the jagged beginnings of a mild but wet spring, it has been a long time coming. While I had great plans for this come-from-afar elixir that involved a certain recipe, or rather the memory of a photograph of exquisitely crackled, bronze patina quail eggs in a gravel nest of salt, I fumbled. Or rather, I pinned down when I should have let loose. First, I racked my brains for the recipe. I forewent the pricey order of delicate quail eggs from D’Artagnan in favor of ungainly chicken eggs. I splashed together a flavor dye bath of strong tea, dark soy sauce and Chinese Five spice. I submerged the final two of my dozen, cracked hard boiled eggs into the mixture for a day before the planned unveiling and subsequent photo shoot. And like a reflection in an interrupted pool of water, the dream and hope for my tea eggs appeared and then flittered and flickered before vanishing. They were a sadly bruised and stained pair, nary a crackle in sight- I hardly wanted to shame them further by photographing them. Discouraged and dismayed, with nothing in my hand other than a cup of tea, I happened upon this quote:

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness” – Ralph W. Sockman

And it became clear. Clear as what I held in my two hands, that all I needed to do was to look—to see. And so I did.


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