Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"a very little tea..."

When human beings participate in ceremony, they enter a sacred space... Time takes on a different dimension.... (They) become filled with the energy of life, and this energy reaches out and blesses... All is made new, everything becomes sacred.  
                                                                                                       ~ Sun Bear*

In the late afternoon sun, I settle down to do some painting.  A piece of wharf for a backrest and slate rocks for a seat. I have a pristine view of the boats and fish shack. No one is in sight. Perfect for the work I want to accomplish. An hour speeds by.  Then chatter.  I turn my head,  Two men are coming toward me. They spread a rug on the rocks. My view of the fish shack is partially blocked. I am annoyed. With miles of unoccupied shale-rocked coastline, why did they have to choose here?  Yet the scene before me piques my interest.

A black-bowel-like object is placed on the rug.  A teapot is carefully placed.  Two small bowls, a whisk, and several other things are put in their proper place. The men kneel before the arrangement. I begin to realize one view is simply being replaced by another.

The tea is ready. Each movement, reaching for the cup, pouring the tea, using the whisk, bringing the small bowl to the mouth is executed in a slow, graceful motion. I watch closely. My breath deepens.  Passer-byes, walking the wharf behind me, whisper.  A seagull’s perfect shadow makes its languid way across the blue, grey slate rocks, guiding my eyes to pearls of bobbing color -- yellow, red, and white Cape Island fishing boats.  Sea and sky are twined in twilight rose-blue.

 My painting, my annoyance is forgotten. The ordinariness of the late afternoon has been penetrated. I am stilled by this tea ceremony or as Christopher Robin observes, this “very nearly tea”. Yet observing this ritual, this ancient tradition on these slate rocks I enter holy space. “All is (indeed) made new, everything becomes sacred.” And, I am served.

* Sun Bear was a writer of Ojibwe descent.