Every morning when I make my tea and toast for breakfast, there are stories ~ in my mugs, the honey I put into the tea, and the apricot jam I favor for my toast. It's a simple breakfast, but it's my favorite meal of the day when I can remember the stories. Memories, really.
Storied memories. Memory stories. These narratives are one antidote to the constant pressure to hurry through our lives. When we tell a story or listen to one, we slow down. I had a professor whose dissertation research was on the biochemistry of story-telling. She was able to discern that the immune system is strengthened when we sit and listen to a story. We are a storied species. It is how we make sense of our lives, how we create our realities. What story are we living? What story do we tell ourselves about our living?
When I make my breakfast, I situate myself within my life, the places I've been, the people who have touched me. If I wake up to rain and gray skies (which is all too common here on the island), I can always count on tea and toast to remind me that there's more to life than depressing weather.
I have several favorite mugs, but here's my favorite one of all time. (Be prepared. I am joining the legions of bloggers who post artistic attempts of pictures of food and kitchen items.)
I love the way it feels in my hand; it has just the right bowl-like shape, the glaze is amazingly smooth, like silk, and that funky handle, obviously attached by hand, begs for constant kinesthetic enjoyment. As I drink my tea I get to remember, and sometimes tell, the story of Trickster Raven's adventures when he stole the Sun for the People. I chose this mug (and the lovely pear mug in the first photo above) because I wanted something rich and story-filled at work. For five years, I taught and case managed inner city high school students whose lives were sometimes so heavy laden that I didn't think I could bear it at times. The mug with the hot tea helped. After resigning from my post last year, I have the mug at home, and not only do I remember Raven, but I also remember my students.
I drink mostly Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea. They come in lovely blue bags that I put in a lovely blue ceramic bowl I found at the thrift store that sits on my lovely blue countertop. Monochromatic and gorgeous. I also have black, green and jasmine teas in dark blue tins with Chinese characters embossed in gold that my husband brought home from Shanghai. And while I opened the package, he told me the story of how he came to purchase these teas. Which I will save for another time. However, here's a teaser - the teas cost $150. The story alone is worth the money.
But back to the Earl Grey. I boil my water in a black teapot that I've had for over 20 years now, - my husband still tells the story of my delight upon opening that Christmas gift -, pour the water into my cup, add just the right amount of cream, and then the honey. Oh the honey!
This honey is to die for. It is dark amber colored, not that weak yellow liquid found in little bears on the grocery store shelf. This is honey that I imagine the ancients dipping their fingers in. I swoon every time I smell it and taste it. It is the very definition of the word bittersweet. I smell smoke, earth, and wind when I drizzle it in my tea.
This honey traveled 3000 miles to sit in my cabinet because of the generosity, thoughtfulness, and attentiveness of a dear friend of mine. While visiting my sister and her partner Steve on the east coast a few summers ago, I wanted honey on my toast, found a big tub of this dark, dark wonderful stuff in their cupboard and immediately fell in love. I marveled and raved about it each time I had my toast that week. Now see if you can follow this trail: Steve told me that it came from the beehive in the yard of his business partner's father, a crotchety old man who evidently had a way with bees who had a way with nectar and honey making. I returned home and several weeks later a very heavy package arrived from Steve. It was a gallon jar filled with this amber colored honey of the gods.
So every morning, I get to put this in my tea. And I remember my sister's kitchen in the South, for which I am homesick all the time. I get to think about Steve and imagine this crotchety man, who has since passed on, who had a beehive in his backyard. The house has stayed in the family, and Steve assures me that I will have a source of honey for some years to come.
I toast my bread, find a plate - and these, too, all have stories -, smear my butter and apricot jam all over. And there are yet more stories about the apricot jam, which make me think of stories about pickled relish, which make me think of my grandmother, which makes me think of another southern kitchen that I have loved, which makes me think of an outhouse and a wishing well . . .
Do you see? Life is nothing but a series of stories. Some good. Some not so good. Some lovely. Some terribly sad. Choose a story, any one that you remember and love to tell. Follow it down that wandering path. See where it might lead. It's like sitting on the front porch on a long summer evening, swatting the mosquitoes away, drinking ice tea, the air filled with "Do you remember when . . . ?" It's like magic.