Something possible

Teresa took this photo of me at our table at Small Talk Tea Rooms, July 2017.

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order…a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”Kakuzō Okakura

It seems to me that there is no day so dismal, nor any day so happy, that it cannot be improved by taking time for a cup of tea.

One of the most enchanting days I’ve experienced in a long time was the Saturday I spent walking and riding through several villages in the Cotswolds, not far from Oxford. After getting off the train at Moreton-in-Marsh, I met a delightful new friend, Teresa Fong, who introduced herself to me and asked whether we might spend the day together. She was a young mother from Hong Kong who was traveling alone for the day, as I was. The friends she was visiting in London had to work for the day, so she ventured out with the same idea I had, to see the legendary beauty of the English countryside.

I love taking pictures of other people taking pictures!

We had a marvelous time– it would have been nearly impossible not to, with the lovely weather and the charming villages– and I soon discovered that I had found someone whose enthusiasm for photography surpassed my own; that may have been a first for me. For every photo I took, she took at least two or three, using both a regular camera and the one on her cell phone. I never needed to apologize for stopping to take a photo, nor felt too rushed to take a shot from more than one vantage point. It was great fun.

After several hours of strolling and snapping away, we had lunch at the Small Talk Tea Rooms in Bourton-on-Water. It was so pretty inside that we both took several photos from almost every possible angle, and I still somehow managed to consume quite a bit of tea along with our lunches. If there’s anything more fun than taking photos, it has to be drinking tea.

When I read Okakura’s quote, I thought of that magical day in the Cotswolds. The qualities Okakura mentions here in reference to tea– beauty, purity, harmony, romanticism– all are perfect descriptions of the picturesque villages we visited, and of our leisurely enjoyment of tea at lunch. In the midst of what had long felt (and still sometimes feels) like an impossible life, here was a dream-like experience that turned out to be not only possible, but real.

34 Comments

  1. I love that photo of you! You look so happy! 🙂 Cheers to tea!

    • Thank you, Misifusa! I’m raising my mug of (herbal, pre-bedtime) tea to you in a toast this evening! 🙂

      • I have a huge grin on my face! Cheers to you dear Julia! It’s Monday morning here so I’ve got my coffee and cheers to friendship! xo

        • Hear, hear! Cheers! 🙂

  2. Raynard

    Julia my question to you is.. Are you a big fan of Celestial or Bigelow teas? My wife just pointed out to me that some of those bottled teas are Genetically Modified.. If I can only find a tearoom here in Delaware. Starbucks and Panara Bread don’t do it for me..A former hobby of mine was photography along with audio recording. Trying to help my wife if I never told you her thing is sewing making blankets etc etc. I can send you pictures of her work and if you are in need of a blankets or pillows let us know. We will be happy to be of service to you. Got a order for a birthday cake this week.You ever had fried chicken and waffles ? My youngest daughter said IHOP serves it. But I go to a southern diner that puts IHOP to shame. Thank you for always sharing and encouraging.

    • Raynard, yes, I like both…but then again I hardly ever met a tea I didn’t like. Celestial Seasonings was one of the “gateway drugs” for my tea addiction. My mother introduced me to it when she went into the health food business back in the 1970’s. And Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea was an early favorite that has held up very well against the competition over the years. Yep, GMO is a total bummer (or at least it MAY turn out to be one), but we are pretty much stuck with it in so many ways. I totally agree with you that finding a charming little cafe is preferable to Starbucks or Panera, but I’ve been grateful for both at times when nothing else was available. No, I didn’t know that Mary sewed! Does she ever need fabric scraps? Somewhere I have a few yards of this and that packed away from the days when I tried to do a bit of sewing myself. Fried chicken and waffles? Hmmm, never thought of that combination myself, but then again, why not? I’m glad there is a southern diner in Delaware. Just goes to show you that good taste knows no boundaries! Sorry to be so late answering comments. I’ve been pretty down lately, but I guess that’s all part of the survival experience. Hope you and Mary have a wonderful week! Matt and I keep you in our prayers.

  3. It’s funny how people feel comfortable being open to a new friendship with strangers in Europe where you are frowned at here. I love that you found someone to share your day with as a day shared is better than a dozen alone. How perfect that she enjoyed tea AND photography! I would love to visit that sweet looking tea shop for lunch. Love those old brick buildings.

    • Yes, Marlene, you would have loved that tea shop. There was a sign inside that said “We don’t have Wi-Fi — we talk to each other.” 😀 I think when we are traveling we tend to be more open to others, because we know the proximity will be temporary unless we choose for it to become an ongoing friendship (which Teresa and I obviously have – we’ve been in touch frequently via Facebook since then). Plus, in a new place, those from other regions are bound together by the mutual experience of a strange combination of anticipation and trepidation. But I definitely think there’s a certain type of personality who feels more comfortable talking to strangers. Perhaps it’s my southern blood, but to me, strangers are (at least most of the time) only friends I haven’t met yet. However, I have been out and about with people who were distinctly uncomfortable at my striking up such conversations with people neither of us had ever seen before. But Jeff was used to it, and I don’t think it ever bothered him, though he was not the type to chat others up whether he knew them or not. (I just had to go back and change that sentence because I wrote “he is not” in the present tense. sigh). A word of warning (or a promise?) in case we do ever make that road trip to see you…Alys and Kelly are NOT uncomfortable with talking to whomever we meet…they make friends wherever they go! My kind of people.

      • You make me smile, Julia. I like to tell people I’m from the south too because I am the warm friendly sort. I’m just from Southern Germany (that’s quite a stretch). I will talk to anyone anywhere and it used to irritate the first husband to no end. I was always being instructed to behave. My parents were not the chatty sort either and around them, in the early years, I was mute. Don’t think quietness comes naturally to me. 🙂 I would love to do a visit but it’s probably on the long list, not the short one. Never say never though. You would all be so much fun to hang out with and I would learn so much. Love and hugs.

        • Marlene, almost everything I really want to do ends up on my “long list.” The summer course at Oxford was an exception, but I shortlisted it because I knew I might not be able to stay in school much longer and still take care of Matt and home and everything else. Hey, Southern Germany may not be too much of a stretch! It’s my favorite part of the country, especially since I can’t remember ever going anywhere north of Frankfurt, hee-hee. But I can’t imagine anything being more beautiful than Bavaria, so I think I’m safe saying Southern Germany is my favorite part. 🙂

          • Hang in there. It will get better.

            • Thank you, Marlene. Sending you giant hopeful hugs.

  4. Sheila

    How heartwarming to find a new “best friend” when you least expected it. Sharing the day, the sights, the photography, and a new friendship must have been really special. The tea was a bonus! What a beautiful picture that captured a newfound happiness, too. Thank you for such a special, happy post. So wonderful to be back in touch.

    • Thank you, Sheila. I’ve been fretting about 428 for days now and relieved to see that the storm is tracking mostly away from you. The gorgeous September Veranda is well covered, so I’ll meet you there, rain or shine! Be safe my friends. Matt and I will be praying. Sending love down the coast to you!

  5. LB

    Wonderful story!
    I love that Teresa just came up and asked to spend the day with you. Her bravery in reaching out to a stranger, and her good fortune in having that stranger be you! ❤
    That image of you in the Small Talk Tea Room makes me smile

    • Thank you, LB. I am so grateful for people such as Teresa, who make the world a friendlier place to be, one day and one person at a time. If there is any possibility for a more peaceful world, I’m convinced that’s how it must happen. A wonderful incentive to get out and connect!

  6. Harry Sims

    You may not have done it (Defeat Despair) to its completion but you certainly have it in abeyance.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Harry

    • Thank you, Harry, your comment is quite compliment. Especially since I haven’t been doing so well at it lately. But as I heard a noted author say recently in an interview, “I’ve never been very good at giving up.” Thanks for being here!

  7. What a tender, contented post, Julia. I can feel your happiness and it looks wonderful–so glad you got to go. (I might have missed some posts–were you there long this summer? And was it all you hoped?)

    • Hi Cynthia! I was there for only two weeks, with school-related activities taking up nine days of that. Yes, it was all I had hoped, and more, on so many levels. I had been to Oxford twice before, while our son was there in 2005, so some of it was a pleasant encore (the city itself changes very little, what with all those centuries-old buildings). But travel always brings those delightful surprises as well, and being able to study C. S. Lewis, especially at the Kilns, his longtime home, was a one-of-a-kind joy for me, since he is my very favorite author.

  8. Amy Hill

    What a wonderful day and what a positiviely providential meeting for you and your new friend. How perfectly suited you are for one another. I never mind you taking photos and always wish I had your forsite and patience. In fact this morning I have been sitting watching my bird feeders with my camera in my lap waiting for the right moments to take some photos. i am just not good enough with the camera and am never happy with the results. At least these days I can see the results right away instead of waiting for rolls of film to be developed. It is a gloomy, chilly, rainy day and I am wondering how your day in the mountains is with Matt. Please let me know when you are back. I would love to visit this wonderful tea room with you and have some tea and chat the day away. It looks like my kind of place. Lets plan a trip there very soon.

    • Amy, the secret to getting a good photo or two is to take thousands of them, hee-hee. I look back on the photos I took when I had to use (and pay for) film and processing, and they are almost never as good as what I can do digitally. But there was a magic about getting into the darkroom and watching the photos appear before one’s eyes, after the suspense of wondering whether any of them came out at all. I think today’s kids who know only digital photography have really missed a unique experience, and of course none of us value photos the way we used to. But such is life. Yes, that was a wonderful tea room — but your kitchen is one of my favorite tea spots in all the world!

  9. A wonderful, descriptive and persuasive post. This coffee gulper is now impelled to sip tea.
    -Alan

    • Alan, great news! And to be fair, I must admit that I am now a semi-regular coffee drinker as well. My Mama and her friends used to linger over coffee the way I do over tea. We’re lucky to have both, aren’t we?

  10. Good morning, Julia! What a fun way to make a new friend! I hope that you two can stay in touch. 😀

    • Thank you Susan. We are in touch, on Facebook, and I’ve been able to see photos of her handsome husband and adorable son and other family members too. 🙂 She and some of her friends and family were so kind to praise the post I wrote about our day there.

  11. I love that quote, Julia. I’m so glad you made a new friend while in Oxford, and that the two of you had a good time exploring together.

    • Thanks, Alys. I thought that quote suits tea to a T! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 😀 )

      • [tee-hee]

        • Or should you say “tea-hee?” Once I get started with corny remarks, it’s hard to stop…

  12. Mike

    Next weekend is 20th anniversary of Seattle tea festival. Who knew?

    • WOW, I wish I could be there. As with coffee, they were evidently way ahead of the masses in the appreciation of tea as a great experience and not just a drink!

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