sitting over a cup of steaming tea, it’s impossible not to imagine all the cups of tea I’ve had in my lifetime. Cups of overly strong Red Rose tea mixed with a generous syrup of white sugar served in the deep green melamine cups my Grandma used to reserve for us grandkids. Tea mixed with sprigs of labrador tea steaming over fires made of driftwood that’s washed up on arctic shores. Tea held over cupped hands while we mourned the loss of a friend. Tea with lovers. Tea with enemies.
Tea while you languish in bed with the flu. Tea after a good cry. Tea that spits out of your mouth while you laugh uproariously at your big sister’s sarcastic jokes.
When your life is a series of nomadic moments stitched together by people’s words and songs, woven into a cloak you carry around invisibly to protect yourself from the slings and arrows of a world full of people working through their own intimate and hidden pains and sorrows, you look for continuity. Continuities to keep yourself safe. And sane.
There are many things I could choose as my own little talisman: some days it is misâskwatômina, growing impossibly in my Scottish University’s botanical gardens. Other days it is a crow’s feather, floating down to meet me on the garden path. But always, through and through, it is tea. I imagine there was tea when I was born, flowing from cups as people rejoiced at my safe arrival, my birth. I’m sure there will be tea when I die: I hope it flows from clattering tea pots as people lament what a mouthy and impossible and loving and over the top woman I was. Tea can be made from nearly anything. Almost any edible plant will give up enough of its essence to reward us with tea.
It’s the heat of the liquid pouring into a cup. It’s the ritual of waiting just the right amount of time for it to steep. It’s the tea that you drink in poverty and in wealth. Tea, with its complex history and politics. Tea with its exploitation and wars.
When I raise the steaming cup to my mouth, I imagine all the grandmothers raising their cups with me, and we slurp and laugh together at all the stories we’ve collected through the day to share.
For you, grandmothers. For keeping me safe and joyous on such a long and confusing journey.