A Cup of Zen is a series that began on the blog September 2014. The following is The Cup of Life’s eighth post for the series featuring Cheray Doughty, from The Star Witch. An Astrologist, Palm Reader, and Teacher of Spirit Medicine.
Every morning, I religiously pour myself a generous cup of Earl Grey tea. In fact, I’ll admit to sipping on a lightly sweetened brew right in this very moment. I’m particularly fond of my local infusion for a number of reasons. It’s grown and cultivated in my home-town with mountains and rivers surrounding. Flourishing in harmony with the world heritage rainforests of the Tweed Valley. And, it reminds me of my childhood. Every warm gulp embraces the palate and uplifts the mood. It never gets old. Every sip takes me back.
I come from the land of the ‘Rainbow People’. No, no. Seriously.
There is a long dirt road between Carool and Tomewin that follows the border of New South Wales and Queensland. Even after the local council’s repeated attempts to seal the stoney lane, those who still live there after almost half a century, refuse to have the natural environment destroyed by the hands of man. It’s 2015, and every year, when I take the drive back home in my 1970 VW T3 for the annual “Drake’s Breakfast” on Boxing Day, I like to pretend I’m going back in time to a place where everybody knows your name.
The undulating adventure down the mountain-side boasts dreamy visions of the lush sub-tropics. I wind my windows down, turn off the radio – actually, forget that part (my radio doesn’t work) – and take the corners real slow. I was always taught to give a courteous “beep” of the horn upon the approach of each sharp elbow in the road to warn anyone coming from the opposite direction that you were near. One year, my Mother failed to do just that, and wound up suspended in a massive bush of lantana on the side of a cliff face. The “beep” is most certainly engrained.
I pull up outside the old pottery shed I played in as a child and the most spectacular open view of Mt. Warning the town has ever seen. The house my Father built for the family the year I was born stands another 100 metres down the road, with a sign out the front that says “Xion”. Native Tobacco and Black-eyed Susan adorn the side of the wooden pottery shed and a small rickety bridge leads to the front entrance. I fell through that once. Also engrained.
As I close the car door and begin the shoeless trek to the Drake’s house, I’m greeted by many others making the pilgrimage by foot and by bike to the annual pancake breakfast. They wear tie-dye and turquoise, amethyst and Argon oil in their hair. Wafts of patchouli and lavender dance on the breeze. They’ve all lived on the mountain before and know the road well. My energy shifts, and suddenly I feel my spirit easing back into a life I remember so well, and continue to maintain on my journey. We are one. And we are many.
From the road I can hear laughter in the distance. I follow these vocal expressions of joy down a long driveway lined with blue hydrangeas and blood red geraniums. The Drakes have lived in their little valley cottage for almost 40 years, and the gardens are a kaleidoscope of brilliant colours. I lean forward to collect a fallen frangipani and fasten it in my hair. I amble past macadamia trees, avocado’s, persimmons and wild lavender. I inhale deeply. I remember myself as a child climbing the branches surrounding, and it’s almost as if I can still see my tiny arms clinging and swinging from the boughs.
I arrive at the front door step and a collage of clogs, Crocs, sandals and thongs are spilling down 3 sets of narrow wooden steps. A few umbrellas are standing in the corner as a precautionary measure to the mountain’s unpredictable showers. And there it is. One foot in the house and the smell hits me like a giant man running across the room for a hug. Ceylon and bergamot blending together, steaming from pots of Earl Grey tea all over a crochet covered table-cloth. I hardly have time to take in the bright aromas before Janet Drake throws her arms around me and says, “Look how much you’ve grown!” The room is a shuffle and a squeeze of long-haired, light-eyed smiling humans all holding a plate loaded with a buckwheat pancake and fruit salad. I do the rounds, greeted by folk still living on the mountain and folk that moved away long ago. We all come together on this one special day to connect, to share and to eat Colin’s acclaimed buckwheat pancakes.
After waiting in line for my own pancake, I watch in awe as Colin flips and pours over a pot-belly stove. One at a time the pancakes come. Good things take time. Colin voices his philosophical perspectives on life and the cosmos and we all lean in to hear what he has to say. After many years practicing yoga and meditation, Colin has become the very generous grinning guru for many of us.
I cradle my plate and shimmy over to the tea table. A circle of happy people kiss my cheeks and express their content. I load my pancake with homemade mulberry jam, fruit salad and maple syrup. The tea pots are calling me. They have been since I walked in. And so are Janet’s English porcelain cups.
I set my plate down. I run my fingers along the table cloth and take a moment to appreciate the detail. My hand reaches out for the tea pot proudly venting the most steam. I take the handle in a tightly clenched fist and tip the spout over my vintage chalice. The golden liquor flows as openly as the love in the room and the love in my heart. A river of gratitude moves in my cup. A deluge of thanksgiving and devotion, friendship, community, and good company. In that one pour, I honour it all and it whispers, “You are home”.
So you see, every cup I sip upon is just this. Every morning, I fill my whistling kettle with mountain water and await the sound.
This action; this ceremony, is prayer and observance of all that we are thankful for. It’s not just a cup of tea. No, no. It’s far more than tea will ever be, just on its own. It has to be shared. It must be given to your heart, and given to others, for that which is shared becomes holy in its proportions. Happiness increases when it is given away. To find a place inside your self that is joy, and let tea magnify elation. This virtue, is the cup of life.
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