Monday, September 20, 2010

Morning Glories

One of my favorite September flowers is the humble morning glory.

I know it is a terribly invasive weed, but it gives me great joy. When we lived in Japan for two years I studied The Way of Tea with a sweet sensei (teacher). It is a traditional green tea ceremony, with ritualistic ways of entering the room, offering hospitality and respect to your guests, calming your spirit and enjoying the subtle beauties of the seasons.

The tea is made with hot, almost to the boil water, dipped out of an iron pot with a bamboo dipper. Poured into hand-made pottery bowl, whisked into a mountain of powdered matcha (the powdered, emerald tea.) The steam rises, the fragrance of the tea fills the rice matted room. And each season the tea is accompanied by a different little treat, typically made of pounded sweet rice and bean paste. At first, the taste combination was very strange to me.

I grew up in Texas, eating lots of beans with garlic and onions, not pounded together with cups of sugar.

Isn't it wonderful how our palates can adapt?

The sweet red bean paste is the perfect contrast to the bright and almost bitter, but not quite, very pungent tea. Mmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Anyway, I was thinking of tea ceremony this morning as I milked Coco and enjoyed looking at the tangle of blue morning glories, wrapped around weeds and cosmos and mounds of shiso (a VERY invasive Japanese purple basil.) Seeing those morning glories brought to mind the taste of the most luscious tea ceremony treat I had, the last leg of our stay in Japan, mid-September. The silken pounded rice had been formed around the bean paste in the shape of a morning glory and had been colored to perfection. Like a watercolor.

That tea ceremony, with the morning glory treats, tasted like the bitter sweet end of a season, holding great promise for the more of the next. Milking Coco, I wished for the calm and meditation that the ceremony would give me. I think I will see if I can order some mid-quality matcha, pull out my bamboo whisk and try to remember. I doubt I can find Japanese treats anywhere in this region, but my sensei always reminded me that The Way of Tea was not about getting everything just right, but about putting our hearts in their proper place.


Polly said...

how lovely! especially that last line. good reminder.

Anonymous said...

I so much enjoy your blog. It is like a treat each evening to check to see what you have written. I feel such a sense of love and strenght in your words. Thank you.