A Blending of Elements: The Primal Allure of Tea
There’s something so primal and satisfying about a warm vessel of infused herbs in my hands. Sipping a honey sweetened brew of flowers, roots, barks and leaves brings back ancient memories and also spirals me fully into the here and now, fully present in each nuance of taste and aroma. Curled up in Autumn’s growing dark with the scent of Sweet Clover and Rose wafting through the air, I am reminded again of my own essential need to still, to sink into the earth and pay close attention to my surroundings. To the soft sand between my toes, the sun going golden as it sets over the canyon wall and the steady heat of the blue mug beneath my fingers.
Drinking tea is one of those simple yet profound acts that can be both personally healing and communally inspiring. One ceramic pot of water and leaves can take us inwards or bring together a circle of friends. It has much in common with the mystique of food in being elemental and ultimately wild in its roots, but there’s also a unique medicine to tea. While a meal can be called a necessity, tea remains a luxury — a call to purposeful rest, if only for a few minutes. It’s a moment between worlds and tasks dedicated to pleasure and self-nurturing. It’s also something in the mix of the ethereal and material, of taste and trance all blended up into a miraculous burst of flavor, scent and ritual.
It’s not just in the drinking either, more than half the process lies in the creation of the tea. Whether a single handful of Nettles or complex mixture of many herbs, there is a great magic in the intentional choosing of flavors and properties — for the enjoyment of the senses and the nourishment of the self. Loba and I take great joy in our semi-annual task of blending together a large batch of special canyon tea for supporters and friends. We pull out jars, crocks and bags of our favorite herbs to be tossed together into a giant silver bowl. Every year the mix is a little different, sometimes the dominant flavor is Hibiscus or Chamomile or Tulsi, occasionally it’s just a simple blend of a few choice plants and sometimes a complicated cornucopia of spices and herbs. When the recipe is perfected it’s sealed into pretty jelly jars and decorated with ribbons and hand painted labels. The end result is an ephemeral yet precious gift that that each recipient will receive again each time they pour steaming water over colorful bits of flower petals and crushed leaves.
From the delicate form of expensive and rare blooming teas to the simple allure of a hardy brew of Oatstraw, we remain fascinated and comforted by the magic and medicine of tea. Perhaps most of all because of the way it calls us into the present, primary moment. It reminds us of the essential importance of the tangible, touchable world we inhabit. It asks us to participate in an age old rite of plant and human intertwining through the elements of fire, water, earth and air. Through the blessed union of earth and us.
I also just finished an essay on Falling in Love with Flowers: Redefining Healing Through Relationship that you might like to read.