Never far

I photographed this tea table in a Monticello shop, June 2014

“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.”
James Norwood Pratt

It seems contradictory that a chatterbox such as I would love silence as much as I do, but there it is. Perhaps it comes of having lived with Jeff for so many years. Or perhaps, in equal measure, it comes from having grown up in a noisy, boisterous family until Jeff came along and rescued me from too much verbal stimulation, drawing me into a saner, more regular rhythm of life.

Habits die hard, so I still talk a lot, but I have learned to love silence. A good thing, too, since I now pass, by my own estimate, 80-90% of my waking hours in complete silence. After Alexa delivers my morning flash briefing (usually less than five minutes long), not even television or radio intrude. But wait, there are those endless unabridged recorded books…okay, maybe I should say “without speaking” instead of “in complete silence.”

Either way, Pratt’s quote struck a chord with me. Tea is quiet, if not totally silent. There is the gurgling of the kettle, the tinkling of the teaspoon against the cup as it stirs, and then the whisper-quiet sound of sipping. But the part of Pratt’s quote that rang out most strongly was the observation that thirst for tea is proximal to the craving for beauty. That’s certainly true for me, and I imagine it’s true for most other tea lovers as well.

Tea has an attainable, humble beauty, even when the blend is an expensive one. The ritual of preparation is simplicity in itself; all one needs is water and a means of heating it to a boil. Sugar and cream are optional, and many of us long ago dispensed with using them on a regular basis, savoring the nuanced flavor of one particular brew as compared to another without the distraction of sweetener.

Mornings are hard for me, and maybe for you too. It helps immensely to start each day with this reassuring promise that the sleepy, recalcitrant brain will come round right if given time and a bit of caffeine. This makes tea a perfect complement to the morning sunlight (or rainy daylight) that coaxes us from sleep into another active day.

If tea is a testament to our craving for beauty, that must explain the exquisite loveliness of the china cups and saucers that are almost always the prettiest part of any table setting. Linens, pastries, silver flatware and even the tins or boxes in which many varieties of tea are packed, all call to us: today is a gift of rare attraction, if we will open our eyes and pay attention.

Whether you’re reading this in the morning, afternoon or evening, I’m not far from a cup of tea.ย So I lift my cup to you, as I have so many times. May today bring you something refreshingly wonderful.

45 Comments

  1. Chris

    Good morning, Julia! The photo looks like the setting at the last bed and breakfast we visited, especially the pastry treat! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ This “chatterbox” prefers coffee with morning quiet time! Have a great week!

    • Good morning, Chris! I’m learning to like coffee (I drank lots of it during the weeks I spent with Jeff in the hospital, where food was scarce but coffee was free “on tap” 24/7). I still favor tea but have even learned to drink coffee with no sugar or cream, and I go for coffee when I really need the caffeine. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Tea is pretty, coffee is serviceable. I start my day with coffee and the rest of the day is tea all the way along with several 16 oz mugs of water. “craving for beauty” is what tea is all about, in my opinion. My teacups and plates are begging for a tea party and if I can ever find the floors and surfaces again, I’ll have one. So much changing around here and stuff is being moved in and out. A cup of tea while I sit and ponder the next moves, settles my nerves. I too, am a chatterbox that requires a great deal of silence. But if I have work to do, it’s faster music to keep my muscles moving and not looking for the nearest chair. I’m one who stays silent, thinking and when I have collected all the right thoughts, I just have to spill them. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Balance is the key here. Too much quiet leads to depression so we must find balance. Have a wonderfilled week, Julia. Hugs

    • M, I love your quote “Tea is pretty, coffee is serviceable.” That’s my feeling exactly. I enjoy picturing you and your teacups, happily working through the chaos. It sounds so much like my own life and yet somehow more appealing when I read about it in your world. You have undoubtedly found (as I have) that tea and water are great ways to stay alert. ๐Ÿ˜€ I will take to heart what you say about balance. I do think I sometimes overdo the quiet thing, whether intentionally or not. Somehow I need to learn how to avoid the “I’m talking and I can’t shut up” syndrome, other than just avoiding any talk. ๐Ÿ˜€

      • I’m that kind of talker as well, Julia. One more area we are alike. I have to make myself be quiet and listen. In third grade, I came out of class many days with tape across my mouth. I wanted to entertain everyone. We were not allowed to say anything at home so I got it all out in school. I manage it better most of the time unless I get nervous. Then I have diarrhea of the mouth. I pray silently for something to stop me. ;( We spend too much time alone with no real conversation. That makes it hard when we do get out among people. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hang in there. I think that’s why I write. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Marlene, I keep saying we are twins separated at birth. I might not have had the moxie to tape my mouth closed, even in third grade when I was less inhibited than in later years. But I have no such excuse about not being allowed to speak at home. One of Daddy’s nicknames for me was “motor mouth.” Coming from a family full of talkers, to be labeled the chatty one is quite a statement. But on reflection– and on observation, especially now– I realize that we are far from alone in our tendency to talk. I realize this every time I’m in a noise public place such as restaurant or airplane or waiting room longing for quiet while surrounded by conversations I can’t block out. You’re right– writing is a great blessing for those of us who like to communicate. I much prefer writing to talking. It’s less tiresome for me and less intrusive for others.

          • Just for clarity Julia, my teacher put the tape on to shut me up. I must have been somewhat disruptive for only that teacher. I’ve been noticing the noise levels everywhere going up. The music in stores and restaurants is elevated to a new high. Even TV movies and news shows are all about making more noise or having music in the background so I have to turn on closed captioning to understand what’s being said. I’ve found that I watch a lot of television with the sound off especially news or talk shows that have something in particular I want to know about. I tape a lot on DVR and then get to that segment and watch. I’m finding that with the world bombarding me with sound, I want my surroundings quiet more of the time. I think that’s why I’d rather write a letter than talk on the phone. I agree, we are very much alike for how different we are. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We cross paths for a reason. Hugs.

            • WHAT???!!! A TEACHER did that? Even in my Southern childhood, I cannot imagine a teacher getting away with that! That is horrifying. Ditto to everything you said about noise and needing to avoid it. YES we crossed paths for a reason…and one of my goals is to meet in person someday. Till then, giant harmonious hugs!!

  3. Carolyn

    Hi Julia,,I am reading this in the morning. Sorry but I had to lift my coffee cup to you right now. Afternoon is when I have tea, most every day. I have a new tea coolie recipe that I plan to make tomorrow.. Sure sounds good, if it is good I will share with you. I think about you and the family and still plan for a visit. My doctors need to say I can make long trips. Oh, I almost for got. My oncologist dismissed me the other day. My markers have been great and Cancer free for six years. Told me I was good to go, said I could stop by just to a hello. That made our day. Dryer is calling , so I better close. Have a cup of tea and I will have one and think of you. Love to you and Matt.

    • WOW Carolyn, Cancer Free for six years! Something to celebrate. Not many with your type of cancer can say that. Lifting a cup of coffee is A-OK with me. Whenever you are able to get on a plane (or take a long car trip) we will be excited to make plans. Is your son-in-law still at Quantico? It’s a dreary day here, but not too cold. I’ll go put the kettle on for another cuppa and I will think of you too! Love you.

      • Carolyn

        Yes he is still there. Jennifer and Emma are in New Bern and will be there. Emma will graduate in June and they will join Paul. Sure hope they have no trouble selling their house. I will keep you up to date . I know that we will be there in June for Emma, I think that date is June 17. That is late because of all the time they missed school.
        The cookies are great. Better close. Love you.

        • Carolyn, when you head this way be SURE to let me know! Remember that we have plenty of room for you and Terry here. โค

  4. kjyaccino

    I’ve been enjoying Bengal Spice on a regular basis, since you introduced it to me. A nice addition to my evening routine. : )

    • Kathy, I’m so glad you like it. I think it’s especially suited to chilly weather and the upcoming Christmas season. It’s so sweet I find it almost impossible to believe there is no sugar in it.

  5. Great post Julia. So descriptive! As you know, I am a coffee drinker. The word sounds so much harsher than tea. It is not quiet. Often it boils over on the stove with a loud hiss and splatter as the liquid hits the stove flame letting you know its ready to drink. Even an automatic brewer does not lack for breaking the calm moments up to the deliver of the finished product.
    Your post may make me a tea drinker yet. As the old tea commercial advertised: “Take tea and see!!”
    -Alan

    • Alan, maybe it’s my imagination, but coffee also seems messier than tea, at least when I’m dealing with it. Somehow it splashes more or something (marinara sauce tends to do the same thing – maybe I just notice it more because it stains). Still, I definitely thing there’s a place for both coffee and tea. Since I have a dangerous tendency to fall asleep at the wheel, and now I have to do the driving that I never had to do while Jeff was with me, I have relied on coffee to help me stay awake on those sleepy afternoon drives. I’d love to have you join the fellowship of tea lovers, which spans the globe and crosses all demographic and age groups. How blessed we are to have both coffee and tea to enjoy!

      • Julia, AMEN! I suppose both tea and coffee provide a vital service. Otherwise, God would not have created each. One for home and one for the road!
        -Alan

        • Alan, I’ll drink (tea) to that! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Rita Thompson

    So beautifully expressed! Do you have a favorite blend? And are you are a purist…leaves, bags, etc. I enjoy tea, but not sure if I have it โ€œright.โ€ But, I keep experimenting with Trader Joeโ€™s and others.

    • Rita, it would be really tough to name a favorite, but the really spicy chai flavors are tops with me, especially in the winter. Having said that, I love all tea. I choose black tea more than green or white, though I drink all three. I like Earl Grey in its many varieties (including those that have a bit of vanilla) and I love blends that include assam teas (or just straight assam). The good old Constant Comment is also wonderful. I’m not a purist at all. I never worry about whether I have it “right,” I just enjoy it and I’m not picky. Lipton and Tetley are great with me too. I’ve had several of Trader Joe’s flavors also. I do think loose leaf tea is superior, in both flavor and in economy (it makes a LOT of great tea) but in actual practice I end up using tea bags more often. When I make a whole pot of tea, I use loose leaf. Sometime you might want to prowl the tea aisle of T. J. Maxx or Home Goods and discover some new flavors.

  7. As I opened your post, I was sipping a mug of Refresh Mint Tazo. My cupboard is chock full of teas!–mostly decaf or herbal as my heart condition prefers those.
    I also relate to the raucous upbringing–the same was true in my childhood/youth. Alas, I had five kids so it didn’t quiet down for many years. And now twin girl babies will be added to the group of grandchildren! Silence, wherefore art thou?… I do have blocks of time to enjoy it; my husband still works.

    But I simply wanted to say this was a lovely post, succinct and true, a pleasure to read.

    • Cynthia, I love picturing your cupboard “chock full of teas” – it would be fun to sort through and chat about it. Somehow, I was surprised to read that you are often surrounded by noise. You seem so serene and I guess I don’t think of serenity and noise as going together. I used to say I wanted five kids (Jeff started out saying he didn’t want any at all) but after Matt was born we knew that his medical problems would take all that we had and more, especially since we already had another little one only 16 months older. Congratulations on your twin granddaughters! And thanks for your kind words about the post. I’m glad you liked it.

      • It is much quieter now.. the 5 kids are now all middle-aged and with their own families! And my husband travels a bit. But there is certainly enough chatter and activity in life for me ๐Ÿ™‚ I love both–the solitude and socializing! Yes, tea sharing, let’s do it some time!

        • I think the right balance of solitude and company is the recipe for an almost perfect life. As for sharing tea, here are some of my recent teabag flavors: Chai Redbush (organic) from Yogi Tea, Winter Wake Up Tea from Trader Joe’s, and Cranberry Pomegranate from Stash. All these come individually wrapped, so if you would like to try any of them, send me your address (it will not be published) and I’ll pop a few in the mail to you. OR just find them at your local store; all three are fairly mainstream and easy to find.

          • True enough,
            Re: teas–I have tried these, and they’re very good! Trader Joe also makes a good “autumn” tea but I forget the name right now. I also like the Stash Holiday Chai as well as Tazo’s Chai, both decaf and regular; Tension Tamer and Bengal Spice by Celestial Seasonings; Ginger tea by Yogi; and French Vanilla (black tea) by Bigelow. Plus a few other black and green teas!

            • Cynthia, great suggestions. I am familiar with some of these, but some I haven’t tried. I love ginger teas and also all sorts of chai. I’m getting more and more fond of vanilla in my tea. I have an unopened box of Tension Tamer that I probably need to break out. ๐Ÿ˜€ Hope you are enjoying the season!

              • I really am, since I had good result with a (6th or 7th…) cardio angiogram last week (no 3rd stent needed)! Enjoy your Christmas, as well! God be with you and yours.

                • Cynthia, that is wonderful news! A perfect gift for this season. Sending you warm wishes for abundant blessings as yet another year draws to a close. Thanks for being here!

  8. Susan

    Julia, I’ve enjoyed the tea you sent me home with after our visit last week! Since tea isn’t normally part of my daily routine, it’s a treat that I associate with friends, either provided by someone gracious like you, or provided to a guest who comes to visit. It conjures such pleasant thoughts and memories.

    • Susan, I’m so happy you enjoyed the tea! I love sharing tea with people. For many years I’ve enclosed tea bags with my “snail mail” correspondence. I agree with you that tea is very special when it is connected with hospitality and friendly chats. I suppose the various tea rituals and practices found in different cultures suggest that there is something in tea that is inherently conducive to a relaxing visit. Let’s have another “tea party” soon!

  9. Constance W Reed

    And Julia, I lift my glass of iced tea with lemon to you! As much as you crave the hot stuff, I still love the iced addiction!! Loved your blog!

    • Connie, I must admit, iced tea with lemon is very hard to beat. For many years I drank only iced tea during the summer. It’s SOOOOO refreshing when the weather is hot. I could start the day with a whole pitcher of it and by evening it would be gone. Jeff loved iced tea, too. My parents drank iced tea at their meals throughout their lives. I would occasionally see Mama order coffee in a restaurant, but I never saw Daddy ask for anything but iced tea. I guess that’s a perk of living in the south. ๐Ÿ˜€ Glad you enjoyed the post!

  10. Harry Sims

    Oh how you can go so on and on my dear.

    Would that I were to have that gift.

    Harry

    • Harry, I bet a lot of people do not see it as a gift! ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. MaryAnn

    Thank you my Dear for reminding us to enjoy common activities! You have such a way of raising them to a higher level of appreciation.

    (Private missive: it was a tremendous joy to see your name when I opened our mailbox! The sentiment, the tea, the LOVE packed therein
    for me to savor! Also, You lavish me with love when Janet Kleyn, president of Agape Villages, lets me know you honored me AGAIN!
    Then when newsletter arrives with your name & mine together.
    A tardy thank you note from me.)

    • Mary Ann, I’m so glad you liked the tea! I love sending tea bags to people. Wow, when you said I raised common activities to a higher level of appreciation, that’s one of the nicest compliments you could give me. I do more than my share of complaining, but all my life people have remarked that I find joy in trivial things that nobody else cares about. Often this is said in a snarky way, but I always took it as a compliment whether or not it was intended as one. I am convinced that we are all wealthy whether or not we have money…and ironically, often the people who need little to be content, end up with more than they will ever need, simply because they do not overextend their own resources. I apparently inherited this trait from both my parents, and then married a man who embodied the same approach to life. Despite all the sorrows and heartbreak in my life…and you know how extensive those are…I am very fortunate. For years I have had a magnet on my fridge that says “He who knows he has enough is rich.” I really believe that.

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        Yes, I concur!

        • I Timothy 6:6! Love you. โค

  12. Sheila

    Julia, Bill and I are back in Garden City and home never looked so good! We had such a sweet Thanksgiving card in our stack of mail and that was the first thing that I opened, of course. We spent 5 days out in the country, about 2 hours from the beach, in the โ€œtin condoโ€! It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, just a wee bit long. Tomorrow will greet us with the December Verandah and that most likely will require warm beverages for sure! You mentioned one time about going to turn your Out On The Porch calendar and Jeff had already turned it to the new month. We will go into December with that visual! โ™ฅ๏ธ Thinking of you and Matt tonight.๐Ÿ˜ด

    • Sheila, I’m happy you had a festive holiday. I so totally know what you mean by “a wee bit long.” I always felt I was born with wings on my heels, but the older I get, the more I love to be home. I remember Mama and Daddy being the same way so I guess it comes with age. Over ten years ago as Jeff and I were discussing where (or whether) to take a vacation someplace, I told him, “It takes a really great place to be better than here.” ๐Ÿ˜€ Well my friend, I was so happy to see you brought two of my favorite things, milk and bread, to this month’s Verandah. That snow is beautiful but the sun breaking through keeps it from being so cold. I can smell that coffee brewing inside and I just might opt for some of that while we sit on those comfy fuzzy seats! ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. Sheila

    Oh, Iโ€™m so glad I came back to visit here tonight, Julia. โ€œBread and milkโ€ seem to be the two items that fly off the shelf when bad weather is predicted. Those furry stools really are waiting for us! Stephanie commented about our 12th porch already, as sheโ€™s on the Verandah, as well. I hope youโ€™ll be enjoying your new home and decorating this year. Iโ€™ll be bringing out all that stuff next week. ๐ŸŽ…๐Ÿผ 428 with its simple comforts seems to appeal to me more than glam and extravagance these days! Home sweet home, I suppose! Goodnight hugs to you and Matt! โ™ฅ๏ธ

    • Hi Sheila, I’m putting up a Christmas tree this year for the first time since Jeff’s last Christmas with us, three years ago. It was really hard at first since he always used to help me with it, but I’m taking my time and it’s beginning to seem like the right thing to do. YES home beats all the extravagance the world can throw at us. I think it’s wonderful how aging seems to bring a deep love for staying home just when it’s most appropriate to do so! ๐Ÿ˜€ Hugs right back to you, my southern sister!

      • Sheila

        Julia, when I experienced a special (simple) moment today at my kitchen window, I knew Id be telling you about it. ๐Ÿฅฐ A beautiful Monarch Butterfly landed on my purple pansies, on my porch, and spent the longest time going from bloom to bloom. I knew youโ€™d join me if you were here at 428! Just saying,,,,, ๐Ÿงก

        • Sheila, how right you are! Wow, a butterfly at this time of year? Do you suppose it was meant to migrate and somehow got sidetracked? I would have been right there beside you, and if I’d had my camera, that butterfly would be coming soon to a blog post near you! ๐Ÿ˜€

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