About two years ago I discovered the joys of Chinese teas at a tea garden in Portland. Since then, I have been exploring teas and enjoying the various subtleties and flavors in much the same way that people taste wine. A large part of the experience for me is what the tea is served in. Depending on the type of tea, you use a little cup with a lid or various small tea pots. I have had a few different lovely little cups from which to drink and enjoy my tea and then just this summer I bought the most beautiful small teapot called a yixing and a tiny little cup to go with it. The pot will only hold 4 ounces or so and the cup is actually more like a shot glass. But each morning as I made my tea I truly marveled at the perfection of the pot. The matte reddish brown color was neither too dull nor too bright. When I ran my hand across the finish there was not the least bit of roughness, it all was completely smooth. It was perfectly proportioned and its little round belly reminded me of the underside of a chubby puppy. Every morning when I poured the steaming tea out of its tiny little spout and into its matching dainty cup I felt like something important and beautiful was happening.
In her book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery writes, “I know that tea is no minor beverage. When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
How that passage resonates with me. My little teapot and I were not aspiring to anything great or lasting, but just a small moment of perfection that seemed to find me every day.
On the afternoon that I was pondering on this passage and what I wanted to say about tea and beauty in my next blog, Annie was making a cake in the kitchen. My perfect little teapot was sitting on the counter in the work area and my perfect little teapot ended up on the floor in about 30 pieces.
I miss it very much. I really do. I could try to find another one or order one from the place in Portland where I bought it. Money and the internet could easily replace it. But it seems like I am supposed to live without it for now and to smile at the memory of its miniature perfection.
In the grand scheme of things that teapot was no big deal. But it was one of my “jewels of infinity” and so a little spot of beauty has been lost from my day. But that must mean that now there is an empty place ready to be filled with the beauty that is available all around me. What are the small beauties in this world that are lined up, just waiting for me to notice?