Sunday, September 20, 2009

So, Let Us Drink a Cup of Tea

Sugary by paulamills

I am a newcomer to the world of tea.

Being the daughter of a full-blooded Dane, my DNA is programmed to appreciate coffee. Yet there is an undeniable mystique about tea that made me feel as though I was missing out on one of life's great comforts, and so I have tried green tea, black tea, white tea, and a wide array of herbal teas. Never once did I desire a second cup.

Until PG Tips.

Our military friends, who had been stationed in England, introduced me to this distinctly English tea a couple of years ago and now I keep it in my own cupboard. Somehow, it fits the bill on a rainy afternoon or a chilly fall evening. It will never replace coffee but it has a mystique and an appeal all its own.

As a newly initiated tea-drinker, I loved this passage from my current read, The Elegance of the Hedgehog:

"I pour the tea and we sip in silence. We have never had our tea together in the morning, and this break with our usual protocol imbues the ritual with a strange flavor.

Yes, this sudden transmutation in the order of things seems to enhance our pleasure, as if consecrating the unchanging nature of a ritual established over our afternoons together, a ritual that has ripened into a solid and meaningful reality. Today, because it has been transgressed, our ritual suddenly acquires all its power; we are tasting the splendid gift of this unexpected morning as if it were some precious nectar; ordinary gestures have an extraordinary resonance, as we breathe in the fragrance of the tea, savor it, lower our cups, serve more, and sip again; every gesture has the bright aura of rebirth. At moments like this the web of life is revealed by the power of ritual, and each time we renew our ceremony, the pleasure will be all the greater for our having violated one of its principles. Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn-- and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.

So, let us drink a cup of tea."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Book Review: Chesapeake by James A. Michener

Chesapeake: A Novel Chesapeake: A Novel by James A. Michener

In his fictional history of Chesapeake Bay, James Michener takes you to the top of a large building and lets you watch the pageant of centuries pass like a parade beneath your gaze. Though you can see the details of individuals as they pass, your perspective predisposes you to see the broad sweep of centuries. It is an amazing amalgam of crooks and colonels, priests and pirates, fishermen and floozies, merchants and mechanics with the natural history of Chesapeake Bay providing the backdrop for it all.

I am amazed by the extensive research and detail contained in this epic work (1,083 pages!), yet never do the facts present themselves overtly. Always, they are packaged as part of the intricate web of life woven within the history of three founding families. Their diverse backgrounds and idiosyncracies are destined to intertwine as the generations unfold and the telling is a treat for all armchair adventurers. I closed the book with a profound sense of awe; Michener brought forth a vivid sense of understanding that individuals are both the product of those who have preceded them and the predictor of what lies ahead.

Each person occupies only a small and fleeting role in history, but one life can color the entire sweep of a generation. What if the first English settler had taken the lovely Indian princess as bride, instead of waiting for his proper English wife to arrive by boat some years later? How would the Quaker family line have been affected if the patriarch had capitulated to the pressure to build boats for the purpose of slave trading?

Momentous decisions face every generation, but seldom are the players cognizant of the truth that their decisions are not trivial---they deeply affect posterity. I'm encouraged by my glimpse into the Chesapeake saga because it is ultimately an affirmation that life matters; and by extension--yes MY life matters, too.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Some random thoughts on the Nebraska State Fair:

  • Nebraska's fair features a cheese sculpture, whereas the Iowa fair is known for its butter sculptures. This year there was quite a controversy in Iowa over the butter sculpture, because the plan called for a buttery likeness of Michael Jackson. No sirree, the Iowegians were not happy about this idea and the outcry was so great that the decision was given to the public via an online vote. Sorry Michael, with a margin of 65.24% “no” to 34.76% “yes,” fair goers have voted you out.

  • Speaking of bovines, my daughter got to "milk" a cow today. She was made of fiberglass, had rubber teats, and was very patient.

  • The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show was a hoot! Axe throwing, competitive sawing, chopping, sculpting, and water log rolling comprised a unique and entertaining show.

  • Oh my, the quilts were masterpieces. This was hands down the best of the exhibitions, in my opinion. It has primed me to make another trip to Lincoln to visit the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. Quilts are rightly considered serious works of art here.

  • My second favorite: the handcrafted furniture in the 4H building. 4H is popular in Nebraska and there is a whole exhibit hall devoted to student contributions, everything from photography to floral arranging to robotics.

  • We "met" a real robot who was most cordial and asked to have his picture taken with us! Oscar the robot carried on such an intelligent conversation that we had to tear ourselves away from him so that other people could enjoy him.

  • Cotton candy tastes just as good now as it did when I was a kid. Only now it comes in a bag instead of on a cardboard cone. It's not as much fun to eat that way because it only gets your hands sticky and not your nose :0)

This is the last year the State Fair will be held in Lincoln. Next year it is moving to Grand Island, which will make it a lot farther for us to travel. I'm glad we had the chance to take this last summer fling and enjoy the variegated sights and sounds of a venerated Midwestern institution.