Kissing Your Hand to the Moon

Our troubled economic times have come to my house.  We weren’t really too surprised, and with half a million people laid off last month in the US, we are certainly not alone. As I frequently do when I am troubled, I went out to look at the moon, to rise above the place of my daily life concerns and be in the moon’s realm of beauty and peace.  As it happened, last night the full moon was big and bright because this is the month when the full moon is closest to the earth.

It got me to thinking about how, according to something I once read, it was once considered very powerful to kiss your hand to the moon. Once more the moon became my comforter and muse as I thought of what this custom really says.  To me, it is a way to express that…

You love yourself.  I don’t mean that in an egocentric way, but that you accept who you are, appreciate your uniqueness and the fact that, of all the people who have ever been born on this earth and who ever will be born, you are the only one who can express exactly the message you have for the world and do what you need to do with your life to make the world a kinder, more just place for everyone to live.  So, you’d better get to it. 

You are connected to the universe at large. You understand that you are never really alone, never really isolated or lonely, because you are deeply embedded in the entire universe of planets, stars, and all creatures on this earth.  You are, after all, greeting the celestial body that circles your planet and is in gravitational balance with all the rest of the universe.  You are expressing and taking your unique place in the universe. You are saying that you belong here, that what you have to say and do has worth because you are right where you are meant to be.

Life is to be lived joyfully.  I mean, kissing your hand to the moon, if you do it well  (meaning with a smile on your face and a flourish of your arm, as well as a great big smacking noise) is kind of silly according to the rather staid and dour culture we seem to live in these days, so you must get into a mood for spontaneity and doing things just for the fun of it, especially if you do it with any frequency.

In other words, gaze at the moon, and then go inside and get back to work being creative and taking action, saying what you need to say and doing what you need to do, and doing so with joy.

I sometimes get lost in everyday life and all its complications.  I forget that the answers to getting through every day can be very simple.  Sometimes finding the impetus to respond  to life’s difficulties comes from just going outside and kissing your hand to the moon… kissing your hand to the moon and being grateful for all those celestial bodies and human beings who call forth happiness and joy despite all the stress and uncertainty of our times, who call forth respect for individuality and creativity and its expression as music or poetry or other art forms, who call forth compassionate action as a way of solving the troubles of the world.

Women Leaders: It’s Not Who You Are, But How You Love

Everyday women are naturally leaders in almost all that we do. Whether we are the person in the office to whom everyone comes to fix problems, or the organizer of our families’ lives, or the quiet voice in our group or organization who comes up with the way out of a dilemma, so often it seems that without us things just wouldn’t get done.  Yet, when it comes to holding official positions of leadership, whether in government or our communities or sometimes even in our own families, it goes without saying that women are still too often absent, left out, and decisions that affect the most important aspects of our lives are made without us.  

Women and political leadership – a dance with so many steps as women throughout time have sought and gained and lost and regained the roles of councilors, tyrants, queens…  and when those roles were not to be, found ways to influence anyway through family members or public opinion. “Doomed Queens” (www.DoomedQueens.com)  is the title of Kris Waldherr’s new book and it’s all about women rulers from ancient times to the present and how so many of them have had their power, and sometimes their lives, stolen from them through intrigue, assassination, and other horrendous acts.  You probably remember Kris from her Goddess Tarot and The Lover’s Path, as well as many other publications and artworks. The stories she tells of fifty “doomed queens”—including Cleopatra, Ann Boleyn, and Princess Diana—are frightening and compelling evidence of what seems like almost universal obstacles to acquiring and maintaining political power for women, even today. No wonder it seems like such a steep climb up the mountain to  become official leaders.

Some women in history, though, have reigned successfully for decades without meeting any unfortunate end. While I’m sure there are more, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth II all come to mind, each within the limitations of her own time and upbringing.  It seems to me that what these women all have in common is a deep love for their countries and their people (though this is not necessarily what saved them from “doom,” and others who were doomed, like Boudicca, also showed this same characteristic).  What was the source of their power?  Is it that real leadership comes not from what position you hold, but how well and what you love?

Throughout history, queens and goddesses have been believed to embody the spirit of the land. At a time when the next drought could cause famine and death, speaking for the land meant standing up for the people.  Scholars and others have described this connection from ancient times, when some kings ruled at the pleasure of the queens, through to stories like Guinevere, whose loss by King Arthur spelled the end of Camelot.  Could it be that this is some of the reason why these queens were such powerful and successful leaders?  That there is something about being the voice of the land and protecting the people that taps into some deep well of women’s spiritual leadership?

When I think of women leadership in these terms, of devotion to the land and people, I suddenly see so many “queens” around me who might not think of themselves as great and powerful leaders. Grandmothers who keep up the homestead where the family gathers, community religious leaders, the older woman in town whose opinion everyone listens to, and so many others already “rule” through giving and commanding devotion.  When I ask women who was most influential in their lives, so often they will respond that it was their mother or grandmother.  What an intense power this is, to transform even one life.

Too often, “leadership” is considered to be the same as the ability to force your will on others, precisely the opposite of what these women leaders, from queens to grandmothers, do.  At a time when our world is threatened with ecological destruction and so many lives are devastated by violence and poverty, love of “the land” and “the people” is the only kind of leadership that makes any sense.  It is, of course, not only women who practice this kind of leadership and not all women leaders operate this way.  However, it is time for women and men all over the world in formal positions of political power to practice this kind of leadership.  It is time for leadership based on love of land and people to be considered true leadership and those who practice it to be given their due recognition.  It is time for there to be no more “doomed queens” or doomed women, men and children, but, rather, love and hope instead.

Halloween: A Day to Remember Forgotten Women

Whether you celebrate Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day or the Day of the Dead, this coming weekend is a time when we acknowledge the presence of wraiths of those who have gone before us. For many of us, the day has become another holiday for parties and decorations, while the importance of remembering those who who have lived on this earth and bringing them into our lives in some way has been lost. 

For millennia, women have cared for and mourned those who have left this life and it was a sacred and honored duty.  Yet, at the same time, so many women of the past and present have themselves been forgotten at the time of their own passing.  Their lives were never memorialized with statues or street names, their stories never written down in official histories of our towns or nation.  Even today, so many women live and die without recognition of their accomplishments or their delightful spirits. 

I have been thinking about how I can make this holiday meaningful, a day to truly honor those who have walked on this Earth before me, or walked with me but left it before me.  I began to think of all the women throughout time whose courage, compassion, wit and sense of humor, charm, talent, and so much else were never memorialized or who I never heard of, but wish I had. 

I think that, over the next few days, I will make a point of remembering those women, of creating a circle of celebration of their lives and all that they did that left a legacy.  So much of who we are comes from women from long ago and far away, but who we never recognize or thank.  For example, one reason I am a writer today is that one of my grandmothers loved poetry and wrote poems for her friends and family.  My other grandmother went to college, even though it took her decades to finish.  They influenced me, but who influenced them?  Perhaps their interest in poetry and education was ignited by other women – teachers or family members – whose names I will never know but who have made my life better nevertheless. 

If I were to honor all those women whose lives transformed mine in some way they would number in the thousands, most likely, but I have chosen two to think about over this next week.  One is the unnamed woman who was the first keeper of the house I live in. She, or some other woman who lived here, was responsible for making my house homey – for intricately-painted doors on what was her kitchen or pantry and what is my laundry room, for handy hooks all over the house, for keeping my house clean and repaired so that it would still stand 150 years later when I chose to live in it.

The second woman I will think about died in the Rwandan genocide.  On my study cabinet is a red and white basket that was handwoven by a woman survivor of the genocide.  She is part of a group of basketmakers who come from both sides of the conflict and have joined forces both to provide themselves and their communities with basic necessities of life as well as to show that peace can be woven as well as fibers.  I will visualize and memorialize one woman from the genocide who did not survive to weave baskets, but who was a friend or family member of the woman who made my basket and who may have inspired her to put aside her anger and forgive, to have enough faith in the future to weave baskets even after the horrors of her past.  Perhaps because of her, I myself am inspired to keep dreaming of a future where genocide is unthinkable and peace is commonplace whenever I look at the basket.

Remembering women who have died brings my own place in this world into focus. Suddenly, I am part of a long line of women stretching across millennia and the globe. They are a part of me, just as I will be part of the lives of women I will never know, generations beyond me.  Giving honor to these women whose names I do not know brings them to their rightful and sacred place in our minds and hearts.  It should be our duty to remember them.

At the same time, if we each remembered women who have recently died but, like the woman from Rwanda, should not have, we create a witnessing that could possibly help prevent further deaths.  So much violence occurs because the perpetrators think no one is watching, that no one will remember their victims and, therefore, that they will never be held accountable.  If, on this day, we each told stories, to each other, in publications, on the internet, of women who this world has lost in the past year who should still be with us, how powerful would that be?

This weekend, I will remember those two women, maybe by lighting a candle, maybe by singing a little mantra to bring blessings on them, maybe by simply taking some time out of my days to think about them.  I invite you to memorialize one or two women who need to be remembered and join me.

The Wild Is Where You Find It

At the end of my day today, I was blessed by the sight of a fox, magnificent in her wildness and independence, who loped across my office parking lot.  She looked at me as if she had come out into civilization just for me, and then continued on into the nearby woods.  For most women I know, these moments when we experience our sisterhood with the Earth are essential expressions of our spiritual selves.  We are renewed, inspired, and reborn in forests, oceans, and mountains.

But, not all women are able to experience wild places first hand.  Some of us live in cities and suburbs and do not have the time or money to go on retreats or vacations in nature. Perhaps our responsibilities to children or elder parents keep us at home.  Maybe we or a spouse are in the military and we cannot choose where we will live. Perhaps we must dwell in a place whose landscape and neighbors make us depressed and afraid.  Even though I live close to natural places, the schedule of my obligations to others means that I am fortunate if I spend an hour or two a week in a truly wild place.

I was lucky – I found my perfect home when I was in my 20s, and it was not in nature.  I moved to New York City because of my fantasies of a literary life and instead found a connection to our planet, a place where I felt perfectly at home.  I felt embraced by the skyscrapers.  I loved the hard, straight lines of the sidewalks.  Surrounded by six million people all living their lives as they wished, I was never lonely and always perfectly free to be myself and as individual and arty as I chose.

But it wasn’t only the human culture of New York City that I loved, but also the spirit of the place.  If forests are earthy, and oceans watery, and the plains and deserts full of air, New York City was, to me, fire.  I became convinced that somehow nature and humanity had co-created the spirit of this place so that it was more than wildness and more than humanness, something uniquely both—powerful, beautiful, and full of life.  It seeped up from the concrete and out of the rock walls of the skyscrapers, oozed from the brick tenement buildings, vibrated with the steps of the inhabitants.  I left 20 years ago and only really went back for a couple of visits recently and I felt it again; it was like meeting an old friend. 

I learned from those years in NYC how to connect to nature, to the land, even when you are not in wildness; to not just exist till you can return to a natural place for rejuvenation, but to bask in the spirit of where you are, whether by choice or necessity.  I began by expanding my idea of “nature” to include not just places that were wild, but everywhere on Earth, to see the “wildness” wherever I was.  Part of doing this is seeing humans as “wild,” too, as part of the landscape and what they create as “wild” if it truly represents some core element of themselves.  So, a painting or poem or building or park is an element of nature if it is an expression of that which is “wild” within us.

Of course, this isn’t always easy if where you live is not particularly attractive and doesn’t blend in with the landscape.  I lived in a fifth floor walk-up which, 20 years ago, was basic housing at its most basic. The only two windows looked out on the brick wall of the building next door. The only time I was in the building and experienced nature was when I would go on the roof and look up at the sky.  I had no choice but to live there because it was all I could afford.  So, I expressed the spirit of the place through paint—I painted a bright red fire in the fireplace, matching the crimson rug on the floor, and the walls were a bright “Van Gogh” green and yellow.  My wall decorations and bookshelf statues were colorful and full of life. My one living/bedroom was my temple to the spirit of my Beautiful City.

I also connected to the wildness of where I lived by immersing myself in other’s expressions of how they perceived its spirit, whether through art or literature or history or stories from the original people who had lived there.  Over time, I built up my own “mythology” about the place, with some places becoming “sacred” to me and creating stories out of my own experiences that illustrated the magic that I perceived there.  By the time I left, many buildings and parks had special significance for me and had their own special power.

But, unfortunately, we can’t always be where we feel connected and can easily visualize and celebrate the spirit of a place whether is has wildness or not.  I like living in New England.  I have, in many ways, done the same process here—finding my own “sacred places,” creating a home that expresses how I perceive the spirit of the place, and trying to feel intuitively what the spirit of the place is like.  I have to admit, though, that I am not as at home in New England.  The spirit of the place is not one that I feel an essential connection with.  The people I love are here, but it is a struggle sometimes to feel as if I am “home” here.

Still, over the years, perhaps New England is not where I would prefer to be, but maybe it is where I need to be.  Living in a place where you don’t feel the embrace of nature’s wildness, where you don’t feel simpatico, can also be essential for our growth.  I have grown in ways that I may never have had I always stayed in New York City.  I have become able to be more solemn, more cynical and less instantly enthusiastic, more likely to struggle to let my intellect be quiet so my spirit can create. I have expanded and added many more notes to my life’s symphony.

At the same time, I have shifted my focus from being an “artist” to being a “healer.”  Even though I may do the same activities, the focus or purpose of them is to heal myself, or others, or the earth, rather than simple self-expression.  Part of this is growing older and experiencing more, but I also think that some of it is absorbing the more somber history of New England and experiencing the harshness of nature’s face here.

If you live in a place where you feel less connected, sometimes you have to make the first move, be the first to reach out a hand to your new home in acknowledgement of the fact that it is nourishing you, even with only gravity, and despite the fact that it may not feel connected to you, either.  By coincidence, I moved to my new home at a time when there was an intense battle going on to preserve the purity of a nearby body of water.  I joined in the fray and, by showing my dedication to my new home, I began to feel aligned and as if I somehow came to better understand the landscape by committing myself to its preservation. While the land I was fighting for was “wild,” I think that the same would be true of a place that was urban also.  So often the way to spiritual connection is action.

Perhaps a world where humans only lived in places in perfect harmony with and surrounded by nature would be ideal.  Maybe that will be what the world will be like in the future.  But, for billions of people, that is not the reality of their lives.  They choose to or must live in urban or suburban environments that may, or may not, have natural beauty. To broaden our understand of “the wild” brings millions of people into the human-wilderness circle who might otherwise feel left out, thus making us feel part of nature, too, and deepening our commitment to it.  At the same time, it affirms the web of connection between all beings and all places on earth.  Can any place not be “natural” in some sense if it is still on the Earth?  By finding the “wildness” in a slab of concrete sidewalk, we commit ourselves to making every place on Earth its own kind of nurturing, free, beautiful, vibrant landscape and honoring the connection of all beings to the earth, wherever they may live.

The Perfect Worlds of Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman worked hard to envision a better world for you to live in.  Gilman lived and wrote most actively in the years surrounding the turn of the 20th century, penning economic treatises and fiction that explored her ideas that a more peaceful, just, happy world depended on the equality, especially economically, of women.  Her general ideas have been validated by studies that show that everyone is healthier and better educated in societies in which women work and have control over their pay because women tend to spend their money on their family’s well being.

She seemed to disappear till 1979 when her novel, Herland, was reprinted.  Much of her work is now back in print, but too few women know about her still.  She wrote three novels about perfect societies, or utopias, but Herland is, to me, the most compelling.  In Herland, three men come upon an all-woman society.  They assume that, because Herland is “civilized,” it must include men. Instead they find that the women are doing quite well by themselves, thank you very much, even reproducing girl-babies without benefit of men at all.

In Herland, the focus is on community, but a caring community in which respect for each person abounds but all is shared, and raising children is honored as a profession for those who are specially trained.  Herland views the whole world through eyes that do not see gender and we come to see all that still makes no sense in our time, a hundred years later.  Originally, Herland has only women, but as the women and men visitors find out, it is possible for a Herland to continue even with men, as long as everyone respects everyone else without limiting them due to gender.

I read Herland many years ago and loved it because I, like many women, I think, had created my own “women-only” utopia.  I chose a job where I worked almost exclusively with women; I had only women friends; I spent my free time volunteering for women’s organizations or gathering women poets for readings in my living room.  I was “of the world” in that I had a mainstream job, but I loved the freedom of being able to be myself because I was with only women.  Now that I can no longer live that way, I miss it and constantly try to recreate that sense of lightness that comes from being out from under society’s narrow ideas about what I should or should not be and do simply because I am a woman.

If I could, I would give copies of Herland to everyone in the world for it is needed now more than ever, whether the answer is a society like Herland’s or not.  Our world is changing quickly and decisions made now will determine what our future will be.  It seems to me that in the century since Herland was published, we have become afraid to “dream big,” to give voice to our belief that we can live in peace and joy, that everyone can be respected for who they are, that no one needs to go to bed at night hungry, cold, or alone, that all we have to do is determine that this is what we will do and it can be done.

To those who find that task daunting, I would give a copy of her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper.  She is possibly better known for The Yellow Wallpaper, but it is a very different kind of story than Herland.  It talks about the descent into insanity of a woman who is kept away from people and forbidden to work as a cure for her depression, a practice common in Gilman’s time. It is a kind of anti-utopian story, except that it really happened and still happens to some degree whenever a woman is denied the chance to use her talents to benefit herself and others.  If we do not choose to look upward, as Herland does, we risk descending into The Yellow Wallpaper.

I hope that, if you haven’t, you will read Herland and think about it.  Would an all-woman society, or at least one where there were no gender differences, be the best way to live?  Would it really be peaceful with everyone content and fulfilled?  What can we take from Herland to apply to our own efforts to make a better future?  How can we make our own lives more like the free and happy women in Herland? How can we make a world that may not be perfect, but is better than what we now imagine is possible?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of those rare authors whose work seems to become even more important a century after she lived.  Unlike the women of her time, we must not only work towards a better future, but towards having any future at all.  We need strong, clear voices to lead us, we need our own voices, and Charlotte’s Herland is like a calling from the past “Dream, dream, and don’t stop till you have made the future you dream of.” 

Sources:

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.  Herland. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.  The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader. Ann J. Lane, ed.  New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Listening to Our Lives, Making Our Myths

I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to live in a time when the stories of goddesses and heroines were new, when the women portrayed in them did the daily tasks, had the relationships, and faced the same issues as real life women.  “Myths,” “fairy tales” and the like are, of course, meant to be metaphorical tales that speak to our deepest souls rather than true stories.  I do indeed find ancient stories to be full of meaning and many do, indeed, make me sit up and say “Yes!  Now I understand!  What an insight!” 

But I wonder if the ones we have are really all that we need.  I have tried, over the years, to write “new myths” that relate to challenges that I and other women I know face that were never imagined by mythmakers of old and some of these can be found in the Writing section of this blog.  But the ones I wrote never seemed to have the illuminating connection to my inner self that I was hoping for from a “new myth.”

Then, a week or so ago, I read a real story by a young woman about an event that had happened to her years ago.  She was a stranger living in a country torn by civil war and chaotic violence.  One day, she was surrounded by a gang of young men, members of one of the country’s factions, who threatened to murder her.  A group of women, native to the country, joined together and risked their own lives to rescue her. This story’s power rang in my bones and I knew that it was both a recounting from the writer’s memory and a vessel holding great meaning for women of many times and places.

 I then began to remember other stories that had come to my mind over and over through the years.  The story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, whom Demeter mourns desolately, is one that poignantly speaks of the bonds between mothers and daughters.  But so does the real story of my great-grandmother who, when left to raise my grandmother alone, spent decades bent over her needle making quilts and dresses to earn the money to send my grandmother to college.  In the tale of Amaterasu, this Japanese Shinto goddess retreated into a cave only to be teased out by being dazzled by her own beauty as reflected back to her in a mirror. How like the true story of an elderly woman I know of who had been abused her whole life only to discover in her 80s that she was indeed sacred and worthy of gentle care, a revelation that caused her to “come out of her cave” and encourage other women in her community to stand up for themselves against their own abusers.

 I love those inspirational stories, but, to me, the retelling of the young woman’s rescue leads us even more strongly to a more just and compassionate future.  The world is completely different than it was when the stories of Demeter, Persephone, and Amaterasu came into being.  Violence is worldwide and capable of devastating all life on earth.  We have the technical capability of creating an earth that is a paradise of beauty, abundance and health compared to what those ancient people knew. But, our technology is also creating ecological suicide while we kill one another ever more effectively. We are, as a species, divided ever more deeply by nationality, religion, political ideology, race, gender, economic status, and geography.  It is to this world that the young woman’s story speaks.

 It is the story of real women.  The women who saved the girl are not goddesses or superhuman.  They are actual women who made a real choice for compassion and courage, then the next day went on with their daily lives.  Like them, our decisions when faced with the opportunity to help overcome or walk away from violence and injustice have real consequences for ourselves and others.

 This story tells of looking beyond the 21st century divisions between people to treat others as humans in need of love and protection.  The young men had dehumanized the girl based on her nationality and race.  The women saw her as an individual worth saving, though they did not know her and would never see her again.  They didn’t think in terms of “my child” and “someone else’s child,” but as “our child.”  It is only this attitude that can stop the conflicts going on right now, as you read this post, all over the globe.

This is a story not of one goddess or heroine on her own, but of women coming together for a common purpose.  It is about how community can form in an instant when it’s needed and how groups of women can accomplish what one woman cannot.  This is how we must face these catastrophic situations if we are to change them.

This is a story that has no resolution yet.  The conflict is still taking lives in the country where this story happened.  While this one young woman was rescued, somewhere in the world are many young women in similar situations right now who are suffering violation and death. This is not a story we can walk away from, satisfied that it all worked out in the end, because it has not.  It gets us moving and does not let us stop.  I hope that I live to see the day when this story has an end because the brutality that gave rise to it is unthinkable anywhere in the world, but I doubt I will.

 I plan on holding onto this story tightly and not letting go.  It isn’t likely that I will ever be in a situation to save someone’s life like these women.  Still, how many times a day can I choose to step in and help or walk away?  How often do I have the opportunity to risk my well being, in one way or another, by standing up for someone who cannot, at that moment, stand up for herself?  How many times will looking beyond the divisions that divide us show me the real truth of a situation and encourage me to act?  Like a profound “myth,” this story has significance far beyond its original narrative and I have just begun to mine its wisdom.

Stories like these show that all that we really need to build our ever-growing and ever-changing treasure chest of myths is within ourselves, playing out every day as we live our own lives.  Each of us is, in her own way, her own anthology of stories that tell all we need to know if we will only honor them as the oracles that they are.  What stories are you holding in your heart that can be the “myths” that will guide, teach, and inspire you and all women?

The Contemplative Art of Making Sweet Tea

As a northerner, I had never really heard of “sweet tea,” an essential drink made especially in the American south, till recently. I asked my friend Foxy for her recipe, which you will find below.  Foxy is not only a champion sweet tea maker, but she is also an excellent and dedicated graphic artist.  When I read the recipe, I realized that her sweet tea making was also an art.  In fact, it reminded me of the Japanese “Tea Ceremony.”  While I’m not an expert in the Tea Ceremony—people study for years to be able to conduct a Tea Ceremony correctly—my understanding from participating in one and reading about them is that they are very formal ceremonies in which tea is prepared and served by a host to guests in a way that emphasizes grace and beauty and promotes contemplation and awareness of the joys of the world around us. 

In Foxy’s recipe, I see the same elements of taking time to do something right in a way that slows us down and makes us appreciate what the world offers to us through our senses.  Here is Foxy’s recipe:

Ingredients and Equipment

4 C ceramic (microwaveable) teapot
4 C. cold water
5 single or 2 family tea bags (I don’t like wimpy tea)
1/8 C. (or less) Honey or about ½ C. sugar. (After you have made your first batch, you will know how to adjust the sweetness to your taste.)
Small pinch baking soda

Directions

*Microwave water for 5 min. or until it is really hot. Add the sweetener. (Make sure the honey or sugar goes in while the water is HOT. Never try to sweeten cold tea. It doesn’t work.)
*Remove from Microwave and add the tea bags.
*Add the small pinch of baking soda (makes a richer color and tones down the acidic taste and is also easier on the tummy).
*Put lid on pot and let steep for at least a couple of hours or more.

When you are ready to pour it up, squeeze the tea out of the tea bags and pour it in a half gallon container. Swish it around to mix in the honey/sugar, then fill the container the rest of the way with cold water.

Then go out to the garden and pick a sprig of mint to top it off.

This also makes a delicious hot tea in the winter.  Make it as per the recipe and then nuke it in the microwave.

When I think about these two ways of making and enjoying tea, I am struck by how something as unique as making tea brings out a common spiritual sense in two very different cultures.   It is moments like this that make me realize that humans really are much more alike than we are different. 

But, at the same time, sweet tea-making has generally been something that women have done and it seems to me that it also speaks to some of the wonderful and unique things about us.  Like the tea ceremony, sharing sweet tea—whether at a tea party, on a porch chatting with neighbors, or as a break in a girls-day-out shopping trip—is a social activity, but one that tends to be informal, chatty, and intimate.  The experiences you share over a glass of sweet tea are the stuff of daily life with all its tragedies and triumphs.

Sweet tea is a summer drink that celebrates nature and especially the heat of the sun that ultimately brews the tea, whether directly or through the fire on our stoves or the electricity in our microwaves.  We drink it outdoors and, when we add a sprig of mint or other herbs from our gardens, we bring some of our own connection to nature to it.

Sweet tea is, well, sweet, much sweeter than matcha tea that is used in the Tea Ceremony which generally has no sweetener in it at all.  When we drink sweet tea, we are honoring the sweetness of life itself and all its joys that we experience through our senses. 

Finally, sweet tea-making is a very creative enterprise.  I would guess that most women who make sweet tea eventually come up with their own favorite twists on the basic recipe.  It is how we can add a little of our artist selves into our daily lives.  I know that in the month or so that I have been making Foxy’s tea, I have begun to add about two single tea bags full of herbs to each batch.  So far I like rose petals and lemongrass the best.

Summer has just begun.  Whether you make sweet tea as a contemplative exercise or as a delightful drink, make it and enjoy! And, if you are a sweet tea maker yourself, I would love for you to leave a comment and let us know how you make it!

 

 

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