Thursday, March 19, 2009

Springtime is finally here

The other morning I woke up and it was nearly 60 degrees Farenheit (somewhat less for those of you who live in the world of Celsius...which is probably most of you) so I decided to bust out the rake and clean up my front lawn for the first time all year. Grace caught wind of what I was doing and said "I wanna help you rake daddy." This was her noble effort, and even though the object that stood before her absolutely dwarfed her, she didn't give up until she had pulled it across the leafy grass the very same way she had seen me do it. The fact that she kept on with it made me wonder just what she was trying to say. Was it just a means of replicating what she saw her father doing? Was it a means of saying "Hey, I can pull my weight too!" Was it just a game? Expression? Art even? Is it really that different from the little shapes she likes to draw on everything when she gets a crayon, pen, or pencil into her hands?

How does this differ from the way we carry ourselves through our days? Do we have that kind of dedication to stand up in the face of the things that seem to dwarf us? Do we keep on until we've been able to replicate the results of the people we know have come before us and carried a task to the point where it becomes an accomplishment? It's almost like children are pre-programmed with the right wiring of morality without ever having to work for it. Little buddhas following the eight-fold path. Right views, purpose, speech, conduct, vocation, effort, awareness, and concentration. They ask for love and basic needs. Remarkable little people they are.

Makes me wonder where and how we sometimes fall off that almost righteous path. Where our innocence fades, and where we first learn to cut corners. To not give our best in a world that is smaller than ever. It doesn't make sense but I'm guilty of it as well. It all becomes part of a better balanced life. I often think that is why my mother seems to be such a happy woman. She carries herself as a very content woman, and I think a great deal of it is because she does everything to the best of her ability. She doesn't cut corners, she doesn't do work with an ego. She truly has it figured out.

I recently started rock climbing again. It had been over seven years since I last climbed. I went once last week and the feeling overwhelmed me again. The feeling of the holds beneath my fingertips. Launching off in a dyno and grabbing onto a hold that would otherwise be just out of reach. All the simple applications and no room for cutting corners. It wasn't but two days later I went out to purchase an entire set of climbing gear and last night I found myself bouldering for almost four hours straight. I found a path I was interested in tackling. Right foot on the stone beneath me, left foot, both arms on the starting stones. Left hand reaching up and grabbing onto the next hold, the next piece of the problem. At first, I fell numerous times just getting to that point. Then I figured out how to reach both hands to the same stone, and suddenly my left hand was free to reach the next hold. Right foot came over to shuffle and my left foot was already well on it's way to the next foot hold. Before long, I found myself making these moves without thinking. It was totally automatic and suddenly my slips and falls all felt very natural and almost vital for me to be able to see this out to it's conclusion. There were several other stones I could have used, but none of them were part of the path that lay before me. All of the muscles in my arms and hands are feeling it today; very alive and stretched in ways they're not used to.

I suppose this collection of words and ideas doesn't really tie into tea so much aside from the fact that my hands are still warm from the gaiwan that steeped the tea I am presently drinking, but it's more than that. It's the fact that I slowed down part of my day to enjoy this. I warmed the kettle, prepped the wares, cut the leaf from the bing, and every step was done very deliberately and carefully. When I am done, I will be sure to empty the kettle and clean out the wares because it's all part of the process. It brings this thing to completion and when I am ready to enjoy it again, I know it will be ready to go. I won't be cleaning up messes from a prior instance.

Perhaps it's clear to say that there is a recurring motif in all of this. It's about slowing down to enjoy simple things as well as standing up to the obstacles that seem to tower over us. The growth of a child, learning how to overcome my physical limitations on a wall. Even small things like making music or even enjoying a properly brewed pot of tea. They all carry with them the idea that love and respect must be present for anybody to benefit from them.

I can't think of a better thought to carry with me into Spring.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Reading and Marking

Since my daughter likes to make funny faces and play ALL THE TIME, I've been on a bit of a vacation from writing lately. My leftover effort and energy has all gone into reading more than anything else. I constantly find myself kicked back on the couch with my nose in a book and a pot of tea on the table next to me. It's an excellent deviation to just drink it without a pen in hand.

I was actually having a conversation with my friend Amy yesterday about books and whether or not one should mark in the books that they read. I told her that I can't bear to mark inside of a book, and she said "remind me to never let you borrow any of my books then" because she marks them up and down. She brought up a few points about taking notes to see how your feelings and opinions have changed whenever you get a chance to re-read them. It's a fantastic point, but I still don't think I'll find myself marking up my books anytime soon. It does give me an interest in revisiting some of my old tasting notes to see if my tastes have changed in the past couple of years.

On a side note:
Tonight as I was putting her to bed, Grace's sleep playlist was going and the Christopher O'Riley version of Fake Plastic Trees came on to the player. Grace started listening intently but couldn't hear the words. She finally said "Can't hear that music daddy" with a look of exasperation on her face. I replied with "Well baby, that's because they aren't singing and there aren't words." She stared at me for a moment and said with a firmness only a child could muster up, "Sing it daddy."

At that moment I did the only sensible thing a father is to do when a nearly sleeping child makes a request; I sang every word of the song to her and by the time it was finished she was sawing logs in my arms.

Moments like that make all of this madness well worth it.

I'll get back to blogging about tea again sometime soon; I promise.