Listen, Don’t Talk: Part I

When I was a little girl my mother kept a half-acre of flowers growing from March to October. I asked her once, unfamiliar with the processes of plants, why she didn’t keep it going year-round. She said for one thing, it was too damn cold to work outside all day. For another, the earth needed a rest as badly as she did. It hibernated during those months, fermenting everything brought to it by the summer before–the things that crawled in between the roots and the stems to lay eggs and eat and die, the desiccated blossoms, the seeds I shallowly deposited in the only bare patch of the garden (mine). It took those wintery months to mull these things and break them down and repurpose them. In March when we began turning the soil over again, it was as dark and wet as coffee grounds (the coffee grounds went into my dad’s vegetable garden, which for some reason produced red soil).

Because I proved myself adept only at pulling up every non-weed in the garden, my job was to water. I would drag the hose coils around the yard, smashing up the grass, creating great muddy patches that frothed as I overwatered the poor flowers. In retrospect my mother may not have liked any of the flowers she planted for anything other than their ability to withstand a careless seven year old.

My favorite part of watering was the part when it was over, though I was not a shirker. I would drag the hose into the cement driveway and drop it there so it didn’t make the yard slippery. Then, I was supposed to let it run while I went back to its source and turned the water off. Instead, one day, I watched the water spread along the cement, filling in cracks I hadn’t known were there. The hose had a kink in it so the water came out in smooth spurts. I stayed at the edges of the puddle I was creating, putting my face closer and closer to it, examining the bubbles and inhaling the smell of wet metal that our groundwater produced (we used a filter for drinking water–don’t worry). I could hear emanating from the water a high, multi-voiced whistling, as though it were singing.

The water has been a special concern of mine when I make tea. I admire it for its own properties and occasionally taste my water without any tea, just to see how it’s doing. The water in Tacoma is a little peppery and sometimes comes out brown, so I usually filtered it. Other than trying to light it on fire, I haven’t done much else with it, mainly because I’ve found that the minerals in it override the tea flavor, and this isn’t a water blog. But I’d never discount water purely for being tap water. You must remember that brewing tea is a communion between the leaves and the water. Tea does not become tea by sitting dried in its bags, but by interacting with the water. During the next brew you make I would implore you to taste your water first, with all the respect you bestow upon the tea. And experiment with the water, to learn and to improve your tasting and brewing skill. Experiment with all the variables of tea brewing, but especially, listen to your water.

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