This is the story of a small, gently used teapot.
It came into my life three years ago, a gift from my husband. Claimed from among a ragged family of fiestaware at an antique store. And like the friskiest puppy in the litter, it called out: pick me, pick me!
“A real find,” Dave proclaimed, after I’d unwrapped it.
Yes indeed, a treasure. Nary a scrape or scratch, save for a slight blemish on the knob of the lid. I wouldn’t even have noticed it if Dave hadn’t pointed it out, and I loved it immediately.
But not just for its looks. Or the image in my mind of Dave haunting local antique stores (not necessarily his favorite thing to do) in his quest to bring me this perfect present. As wonderful as those things were (and are), I also loved it because it spoke to me about my life. It said:
Use me, Patty. That’s what I’m for. Take me off the shelf and enjoy me. I’m here to open the door to a new experience.
I imagined an experience that consciously added meaning to my life by stopping each day to center myself with a pot of tea. Where I truly lived during this in-between space, rather than frittering it away on distractions and mindless amusements.
Alas, it was not to be. Even though I’ve always loved the idea of tea – everything from the British custom of afternoon tea to the beautiful artistry of the Japanese tea ceremony – the little pot stayed on its perch most of the time.
Looking good, for sure.
But silent. And pining to be filled with hot water and aromatic tea.
Until a few weeks ago, that is. Because after I wrote about Kung Pao’s affinity for rituals, I realized that it was high time I got on with it: no more shilly shallying!
And now, I’m loving my personal tea time ritual. Around about 5:00 each afternoon, if I’m home, I fill the kettle. I like the feel of its increasing heft as the water flows in.
After I set it on the burner, I grab the teapot and tea. Nothing fancy, just Trader Joe’s Earl Grey. I choose a cup, most often persimmon colored, because I like the contrast with the turquoise of the pot.
While I’m anticipating the soon-to-be steam that will rise from the kettle’s spout, I go about gathering a few necessary partners for my tea: fruit, perhaps a handful of nuts, maybe even a square of chocolate.
Finally, the moment arrives! The water squeals its readiness to me, and I splash a cup or so into the waiting pot, gently swirling it around to ensure tea of just the right temperature. After a few seconds, out goes that first splash, in goes the tea, then a fresh dose of hot water almost all the way to the top.
And surprisingly, here’s one of my favorite parts. Wrapping the pot in a well worn dish towel, kind of a like placing a little shawl on its shoulders to keep it warm.
Once the tea has steeped, I’m almost there. I fill my cup with the piping hot liquid, giving it a sprinkle of sugar and a whisper of milk for good measure. And as I carry my cup to the table, I cradle its warmth in my hands. Smell its flavor even before I taste it.
THEN TASTE IT I DO. AH. BLISS
What I’ve discovered these past few weeks is that the making of the tea is as pleasurable as the drinking of the tea. A full-on sensory experience, from start to finish, that’s becoming a body memory for me.
And as joyful as this is, there’s more. Something I hadn’t bargained for. Something that taps into one of our most elemental human needs. The need to be welcomed. To be greeted upon arrival.
You know how it is when you walk through the door and someone’s already there? When they stop what they’re doing, notice you, say something? And depending on the relationship, maybe they offer you a warm embrace and a sweet kiss?
Even animals do it. In my home, I see that acknowledgment play out every time one cat passes another. A quick touch of noses. Hello. Good to see you.
Well, we need that too. Of course, I know we don’t always get it. Sometimes we live alone. Or arrive first. Or the person waiting doesn’t look up.
So at its simplest, my tea making has become a kind of greeting that I give myself. A cheerful hug to look forward to each day.
But at a more complex level, it has changed things for my husband and me. Because when Dave rolls in at 6:00 PM, not only do I give him a hug and a kiss, but now I ask, “would you like some tea?” It’s still warm in the pot, and I’m ready for a second cup. And as we sit down to exchange notes about our day, I understand implicitly that two cups of tea is just right.
How about you? What kind of small meaning making have you been up to lately? You know I want to hear about it!
(By the way, if you’re wondering what the heck Meaning Monday is about, click here for the full story. And if you’re ready to fire up the meaning in your own life, go visit Belinda at the Halfway Point. Her post about simple things that add meaning to everyday, is, quite simply, beautiful.)
WHY NOT START NOW?
So nice. My husband and I are beginning such a ritual in the cold Colorado evenings after work. I have a teapot that has sat in the china cabinet for years. Thanks for the tea towel wrap suggestion. I will do that tonight. Tea time is a lovely transition from the busy day, to relaxing in the evening. We have been doing it about a month now and I am loving it.
Hi Erin – That’s so cool that we’re sharing the same ritual. Perfect for those chilly evenings as you say. I like the way you frame it, too: “lovely transition from the busy day, to relaxing in the evening.” Those transitions are so important. Thanks for your comment.
p.s. thanks for stopping in again and letting me know the tea wrap worked!
We tried the tea towel wrap last night and it worked great. Thanks for a most helpful tip.
Oh my! Of all days for me to first come here, it is destiny that it was today. I have several tea pots but love yours. I would snatch it up if I saw it somewhere.
I make tea every morning. I get up and have my coffee and as my youngest makes his way out to the bus stop, I start my tea ritual. I drink mostly herbal teas but occasionally something else – an earl grey or a Republic of Tea Comfort and Joe or a green tea.
I love to offer tea to guests. Most expect me to pour water directly into their cup. No, the tea will come from the tea pot.
I think we are kindred souls!
Hi Nicki – Welcome! A first time visitor and a kindred soul to boot; does it get any better than that? Your tea ritual sounds wonderful. And I’m with you about tea being much better coming from the pot rather than poured directly into the cup. It just seems right. Thanks for the visit.
Hi Patty! I am SOOO glad you are using that teapot!!! That is what struck me I think more than the new ritual itself (although I adore it). I’ve been on such a simplifying path that I have second-looked every possession I have – it must be useful and used or it goes – poof, gone – and I can finally open drawers,cabinets and closets with getting assaulted at the sheer volume of things I had hung on to for whatever reason.
As for having tea, you like my favorite – Earl Grey! It has bergamot in it and that is also one of my favorite aromatherapy oils/scents. I drink tea throughout the day, no ritual really, but I sure love yours!
Hi SuZen – Mmmm, yes, bergamot. What is about that? I don’t know if you were ever a fan of Star Trek “Next Generation,” but Captain Picard always ordered, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” Our kind of guy. And you’re so right about using those things we have, and letting go the rest. I’m pretty good at paring down, but this year I want to REALLY pare down. But this little teapot, it will most definitely stay. Thanks!
Patty — I love your teapot and this story!!
When my daughter moved to England, she taught me about the custom of making tea and I also fell in love with it. She got me a tea pot and a cosy that fits the pot to keep it warm.
I used to buy British biscuits to have with the tea, but then I learned how much FAT they have in them. So, like you, I now have fruit.
I agree that rituals can be so comforting in our lives. Thanks for sharing this:~)
As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to fix myself a nice cup of tea right now…
Hi Sara – I love those tea cozies. But I also do thoroughly enjoy wrapping the pot in its little shawl. But whatever we do, cozy or shawl, it certainly does work to keep it warm, doesn’t it? About the biscuits – I admit I do sometimes splurge with a few Lorna Doons with the tea. I’m sure the biscuits are delicious too. Thanks for visiting!
Hi patty, one thing I love about your idea of a greeting and using the tea pot ritual as one is that it separates two times from each other. It creates a boundary we have to cross and makes it easier to contain the events of our lives. This is something I need to start doing so you have me thinking about what rituals I can create in my life.
Very astute of you to pick that up, Quinn. Navigating those small transitions within our days can be as challenging as navigating the big transitions within our lives. I think ritual is a tremendous ally for that. In fact, there’s a book I like called, “The Joy of Ritual.” I’m excited to hear you are going to think about creating your own rituals. Make sure you stop back and share it with us. Thanks!
p.s. Thanks for coming back and sharing that Quinn. It sounds like great way to get your thoughts clear after class, and give yourself a real sense of completion so you can go on to whatever is next. Nice!
One ritual I have started to build today is my after class ritual. When the class lets out I proceed to the cafeteria were I set up my computer and transcribe my notes. This gives me a bit of closure on the class session and insists that I put my thoughts in order while they are fresh. I will try to let you know how that is working for me
I just love your prose, Patty! And you’ve inspired me to use my teapots instead of pouring water in my mug.
I switched to tea from coffee a while back and I can honestly say it’s an upgrade for me. Most of the time, I’ll make it at home in the evening. I’ve come to enjoy the preparation and how I naturally switch gears and slow down when I fill my kettle with water and wait for it to boil. My tea ritual is quality time. I much prefer it over buying a tall cup of latte to satisfy a desperate need for caffeine.
Thanks for showing us the profound in something so simple. And thanks for mentioning my recent post.
Hi Belinda – Thanks so much! What is it about tea, I wonder? It sure does seem to have that ability to help us switch gears and open up to quality time. I guess coffee is for revving up and going outward, tea for slowing down and going inward. And it’s so nice to unexpectedly discover all these tea drinkers here. I can just imagine sitting down with all of you for lovely tea party.
What a lovely teapot. I wonder about its history. What kind of stories would it tell. Who, before you, loved it and cradled it in a shawl?
My meaning making is all about my inspiration bracelet at the moment. It was made for me with the words I chose: Create-Happiness-Always by an artist who prayed over each bead. I feel energized by it. I feel loved.
thanks for a great post!
Hi Maryse – I wonder that too! I love knowing that it has a mysterious history that I will never know. It has its secrets. And what a fantastic reminder your bracelet is to live each day and make it meaningful. Thanks so much for sharing that.
Thanks for sharing your excellent ritual and your beautiful Fiesta ware. This is a great practice.
Thank you for visiting. Funny about the fiestaware; for years I looked at it from afar and really wanted it, but for some reason I would not allow myself to have it. I kept thinking I didn’t really need it. Trying to be sensible, you know? But its history and its colors continued to speak to me. Plus I think it is about the only crockery left manufactured in the US. So four years ago I got myself a set, all different colors that I like. When my husband surprised me with the teapot, it was perfect.
What a wonderful post. That teapot is my favorite color. I love the way you describe your moment by moment tea party for one and then two. When I got to the photo of the nuts and chocolate my mouth started watering:)
Meaning in my daily life is my morning ritual with my affirmation cards, meditation and prayer book. I start my day with peace and calm.
Hi Tess – I love that turquoise color too. I have it throughout my house, splashed here and there on pillows, throws, pictures, and it really makes me happy to look at it. For a few years I was also wearing a lot of turquoise, but not so much lately. Now I mostly want muted colors. Your morning rituals sounds like a beautiful experience, a true centering. I imagine it leaves you feeling like no matter how the day goes, it will be a good one. Thanks so much for your comment.
What a great post. I actually went right out and made myself some tea after I read it, and the post has stuck with me. But what really struck me about it is how it reminds us how much everyday “normal” things can bring so much pleasure. I just rediscovered this recently when I opened my kitchen cupboard to take out a pretty blue ceramic cup I just bought, and I just instantly felt a ‘zing’ of happiness – the color, the heft, the shape of the cup. I actually laughed out loud and it was so unexpected! I also bought a pretty designed plate that caught my eye – and when I use it, it just makes the meal seem more fun and special!
I’m trying to keep an eye out now for simple things that can help surround me with beauty (I buy things used, so it’s also a lesson in conscious consumption), keeping farmer’s market flowers in my house even if I’m not expecting guests, burning incense when I get home from work, making a gently, mindful ritual out of breakfast alone on weekends, admiring the color and beauty of the things around me. It really makes the world seem so welcoming, colorful, interesting, and wonderful. Thanks for the reminder!
Hi Melissa – Welcome! I really appreciate your comments and sharing your own quest to find the meaning in normal, simple experiences. Your description of how you do this is so inspiring. It just lifts me up to remember (again and again) that we can make the world, as you say “welcoming, colorful, interesting, and wonderful.” Beautiful. Thank you.
How beautiful, Patty. It was like walking through a garden, being reminded of love and sharing, even with the sun. Thank you.
Thank you, Judith. Your word, as always, are beautiful too.
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