Sunday, August 3, 2008

Across the Universe

Last week, on the morning the bottom fell out of my world, I made a cup of tea, something I do every morning. Yogi Tea is my favorite and each morning I alternate between Egyptian Licorice and Egyptian Licorice Mint. I have never been a fan of licorice, unless it's the red kind, but as I learned from my wise and wonderful friend David, who alternately channels the voices of a Jewish mother and a Lutheran wife, depending on the urgency and magnitude of the issue at hand, "Red licorice is not really licorice." But this tea, this licorice, is good stuff and I've made it a staple in my home and of my mornings since I gave up caffeine cold turkey three years ago. Prior to the anxiety and the coffee ban I'd never been much of a tea drinker but I think that was because I'd never found a really good, flavorful cup of tea. I'd been raised on Celestial Seasonings, which is watered down, typically bitter and always bland. When my friend Ruth learned of my dislike and the absence of a warm cup of anything from my mornings she sent a care package of tea, lots of it, all of them warm and vibrant, but especially the Yogis, which include a little tab at the end of the string which contain valuable words of wisdom. During the middle days of the anxiety––when I was still wobbly and busy shoring up self-confidence––it was this "daily wisdom" which helped sooth my mind even as the tea calmed my spirit. I took to taping the messages all around my desk at work so that wherever I look I'm reminded of the things which really matter, or receive instruction on how to survive from minute to minute during the worst and busiest parts of the year. They are The Universe's message to me, personalized by my own hand as it pulls a bag of tea from its box.

Last Saturday, when everything seemed upside down and my mind was reeling and it was all I could do to stand still, I brought my red kettle to a boil, sat at the dining room table looking out on the grass and the traffic just beyond that, the slow mechanical clink of the water warming and stirring in the pot building behind me until the first sputter hissed from the kettle and turned into a whistle, which always makes me think of my friend Wendy who would run to the kettle when it erupted in readiness, hands over her ears calling, "Screaming babies! Screaming babies!" I set the bag in my favorite mug, the one with the E.H. Shephard drawings of the Pooh characters doing somersaults and the line running across the base, "Some days are more tumbly than others." I poured the water, watched the bag saturate and change colors then puff up big and fat before turning the water a nice shade of greenish brown. The steam smelled of mint and I closed my eyes, as I always do, and breathed deeply. One way or another everything would be okay, The Universe would do what it does best, which is merely Be the Universe. I watched the water grow darker then pulled the bag from the mug, twisted the string around it to coax out the last of the flavor, plucked the tag from its end and tossed it in the garbage. Sitting back down at the table I blew lightly across the surface of the cup, raised it to my lips and took my first tentative sip, which, not surprisingly, was perfect in every way. I smiled that Make-It-Through-the-Day smile we all have and read the bit of "Daily Wisdom" I clutched between my thumb and middle finger. In small tea-leaf colored letters is said:

Let things come to you

And so the week was spent letting things come to me. My father and Jane arrived not long after and we spent a marvelous afternoon and evening together enjoying old photographs and stories, food and drink, and a long walk with Duncan. My mind was in the moment, not on the other things, and it felt good to show them places that belonged to Dunc and me, to show them the person I've become and maybe talk a bit about the person I still want to be. Then suddenly mom called mid-week and asked if she and Casey could come for a visit this weekend. And then there they were, at my door on Thursday night, as if they'd walked through it a thousand times and it hadn't been nearly eight months since I'd last seen them. A week of family and love and strength brought to me because I let them come, opened myself up and received all they had to give.

And now that they are all gone, back to their homes across the prairies, around the mountains and through the deserts, I am here with Ken and the kittens (who are really cats but will always be my kittens) and Duncan, a family in our own way, just as strong, struggling just as hard, although sometimes it seems we struggle harder, although I know that's not true. Last week I wanted to sit in this room in front of this screen and tell you that every silver lining has a cloud, but the past eight days have changed that and once again I know the opposite is the truth. Goodness and peace swirl around us like the bodies of myriad paper-thin tiny jellyfish we stood enraptured in front of at the aquarium yesterday.

There is a place, a wide dry patch under one of the large trees in The Glen, where there is little color, only the brittle brown and yellow of pine needles, and direct light only on the far end of day when the sun dips low before being extinguished behind the silhouette of the mountains. It is a sheltered spot, but also a forlorn one, forgotten and not very pretty. Duncan pulled on his leash so I dropped it and watched as he bent low under the lowest boughs to sniff a single sprig of green, which had somehow managed to push through the hard cake of earth and rough, sharp points of the needles and reach out for the day's last thin rays of golden light.

There are miracles every day. I know that if you let them, things will come to you. And sometimes, if you love and are loved hard enough, if you're open and very lucky, those things will be good and your walk will be better and easier because of them.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth
are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love which
shines around me like a million suns
and calls me on and on across the universe
(The Beatles, Across the Universe)


caboval said...

Curt, I am hoping that you listened to that butterfly story I sent you the link to. It is spritually uplifting. Hmm Im going to go boil some water!

Nik said...

I have recently become a fan of loose teas. I was raised on Lipton, so thought that there was nothing really special about tea. Until a pal sent me loose tea from

That reminds me...I've got to place an order soon.

duncan's internet friend said...

Beautifully written post. You can totally see your strength in it. Thanks for sharing. Peace and tea leaves to you!

Lori said...

I'm so glad that the darkness is cycling back to light for you. It always does, but sometimes it seems to take too painfully long. It's easy to consider giving up... but never do, because you do have friends who love you and will help in any way they can.

traci said...

This was a beautiful post, Curt.

I'm always joking to my mom that she can find the negative in every positive situation (At least I know where I get it!) and I say to her, "way to pull the cloud out of the silver lining!", so that made me laugh.

I'm glad that you are feeling better and that whatever was troubling you has passed. My thoughts are with you my friend.

traci said...

PS I love your red teapot.

dad said...

Someday, allow me to tell you about "ACROSS THE UNIVERSE." It may be more meaningful than you imagine.

Greg said...

Glad to hear your spirit is intact, no matter what else may be going on.

"There are miracles every day. I know that if you let them, things will come to you. And sometimes, if you love and are loved hard enough, if you're open and very lucky, those things will be good and your walk will be better and easier because of them.

I've learned that this summer myself. Be well, my friend.

Sue said...

Curt,why is it that when I read your posts I feel warm, and fuzzy, and happy and sad all at once? You are a magician, and your posts, no matter the subject, are simply magical. Even your description of tea for goodness sakes...magical!

Curt Rogers said...

Sue, you flatter me. Thank you.

And thank you to all the rest of you who for enduring the bleak darkness I recently suffered. It was a difficult time but I believe things have turned around and are on the mend. I feel a hundred times better, because of my father's visit, the time I got to spend with my sister and mother, Ken's belief in love, the walks I took with Duncan, and because you are the truest, most wonderful readers I could've hoped for. My heart wishes only the best for each of you.