Thursday, June 07, 2018

Spiritual Journey First Thursday: Summer

This month our host, Margaret, has invited us to reflect on summer for our Spiritual Journey First Thursday. (In January the topic was our OLW, in February the moon, in March music, in April poetry, and in May special days.
Living in the tropics as I do, my life is not much defined by seasons.  The variety is limited here.  All year long the weather is hot, the skies are blue, the blooms are bright.  In February the temperature is lower than in July, but only by a few degrees.  (Take a look at this link to see how little the temperature changes.)

The exception is summer, not for the population at large but for me as a teacher in an American-style school.  On Monday I finished shutting down my classroom and covering my shelves with plastic; I go back to work the first week of August.  Summer is a fallow time, a time of quiet and rest, a time for reading books I couldn't get to all year, making sun tea, staying barefoot and in my pyjamas.  Summer is, many years, a time for travel and seeing different views.  It's a time for reminding myself that not everyone in the world is focused on the same issues that preoccupy my days, a time for remembering that there's a world out there at all. 

Summer for me is an extended Sabbath, and I do recognize how blessed I am that it is so.  Most people do not get the privilege of ten weeks of rest and change right at the warmest time of the year.

James 1:17: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

Sabbath is about pure gift; it's about receiving from God when you don't work, about being taken care of by God when you don't hustle.  My OLW this year is ENOUGH, and summer is all about enough.  It's about enjoying it while it lasts, every sun-soaked moment.  It's about recognizing, with Shakespeare, that "summer's lease hath all too short a date." (You can read that sonnet here.)

Last summer I played a lot with the metaphor of sun tea (Here's a post I wrote last summer about sun tea, on a day when we were planning a pizza party in the evening two couples; the post mentions that one of the couples was about to have their first child, and sure enough, she went into labor that day and we had to postpone the pizza party!).  At the end of the summer I wrote the following poem.  I'm not fully happy with it, really; I think maybe this idea wants to be an essay instead, and that it needs more work.  But I love the thought of these little dried pieces of tea coming to me from all over the globe, and the sun making the tea for me without me having to light the stove.  I love the word "alchemy" and the stories behind each of my glasses of iced tea.  I love how even though the poem doesn't use the word "enough" or the word "Sabbath," it's full of both.  And how even though it doesn't use the word "God," I know the source of those good and perfect gifts.

Sun Tea, Summer 2017

Fill the jar with clean water.
Put in the tea:
sometimes loose, to be strained later,
sometimes in a tea ball infuser,
sometimes a handful of tea bags.
Screw on the lid.

Go outside, barefoot or in flip flops,
and place the jar in its spot:
next to the crown of thorns in the pot,
out of reach of the dogs,
directly in the sun.

The sun is the key,
working its alchemy as the day advances,
as the tea and the fruit and the flowers
spread their essences into the water
and the mixture steeps,
silently blending,

This summer’s offerings:
blueberry hibiscus
passion green
chamomile medley
berry black
Kyoto cherry rose
honey-vanilla chamomile
hot cinnamon sunset
country peach passion
orchard chai.

Each one has a story:
the end of a birthday present from last year,
a gift from my husband’s student
(I made tea from this one day after day
until the whole box was gone),
my daughter’s choice,
a purchase during an outing with an old friend’s new wife.

Each one is filled with ingredients
carefully gathered from trees and bushes and fields,
dried in the sun in other latitudes,
combined and packed in boxes and bags.

Bring in the jar
when the mixture is dark enough:
golden brown, red, peachy.
Take out the leaves or the bags,
sweeten the tea to taste,
and put the jar in the fridge
to chill for a couple of hours.

Serve over ice.

Ruth, from

You can read other people's reflections on this topic at Margaret's blog here.


SW said...

I really enjoyed the post! Let's have some tea!

Donna Smith said...

So tickled to find Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset! It's my favorite! Never tried to make sun tea, and never had this one cold. Maybe it's time to try something new!
Though my post did not quote James 1:17 - it fits...just as you may not have said "enough", "sabbath" and "God", all is understood.

Irene Latham said...

Indeed summer is all about enough. I love that. I also love how tea is something we have in common. :) My favorite today is Harney and Sons "Paris." I will try some of these in your post. Also, how great is tea as a metaphor? It's one of the few things that celebrates darkness. I am going to let that steep and see what poems come of it. Thank you, Ruth! xo

Doraine said...

I am enjoying a cup of peach blossom tea (hot, not cold) as I read your tea-filled post. Enjoy your summer sabbath!

Ramona said...

Oh, Ruth, your poem makes me want to try some sun tea (but not sure we get enough sun or heat). Maybe I'll just brew a favorite cup of tea and then chill it (which I've never done). I'm a caffeine free, herbal tea gal, but when warmer weather arrives, I put away my tea. So maybe this will be my summer for trying iced tea. Love the idea of summer being a fallow time.

Margaret Simon said...

Tea is one of my go-to beverages. I love all the flavors in your poem and the joy of watching the tea steep. Summer is like an extended Sabbath. I like that better than what my husband calls it, "The Big Weekend."

Violet N. said...

What a lovely and rich post and poem. I love how you bring together the ideas of enough, Sabbath and tea. Your sun tea is a metaphor of an enough life, I think.

My favourite tea is Berry Zinger, which I drink hot with lemon juice and sweetener.

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, you gave me the yen to mix up a container of sun tea (one of my husband's favorite summer drinks). We love to make it for guests and family. I am so glad that I met someone else who knows about this great concoction of flavors. We add fruit and honey to the drink. I am growing mint leaves and lavender now and want to get other herbs to flavor the tea along with the bags. Thanks for the backstory on Haiti temperatures. I did not know that the heat remains high each year. Enjoy your time off to renew your zest for teaching.