13 October 2009

Teapotta and Fugue in mE Minor

Unloading the dishwasher almost made me weep. I had washed my teapot, by machine.

This is no great thing, not on the order of a car crash or horrible elevator accident, but it caused me a great deal of consternation. I haven’t a clue why exactly, other than to say that standing there in the chalky bluish glow of the overhead fluorescents, in the middle of the kitchen with my little black teapot cradled in my hands, I was overcome by a fit of melancholy.

This was on the heels of a busy day after a long week, with another long week ahead. I was weary to the bone, and trying to keep from being pecked to death by the ducks of household management. I had looked for my teapot earlier, a little perturbed that I could not recall what I had done with it. I was too preoccupied and angsty about unfinished tasks that I abandoned the idea of a full-scale hunt.

I know what happened, now. It was the night before, and I was at the sink working my way through an unkempt pile of dishes to sort them for hand or machine. Ordinarily, I would have washed the teapot by hand, but I was robotically wiping glasses and utensils and automatically placing them in the dishwasher. In my fugue state, the teapot was just another lump of ceramics, to be dealt with expediently and quietly. So into the dishwasher it went.

You should know, dear readers, that I haven’t really washed my teapot in years. I use it every day, and it was a constant cycle of fill-heat-steep-pour-repeat. Always in motion, and engorged with boiling water, washing seemed unnecessary. There is a also a school of thought that believes a good teapot takes years of use to “age” and make great tea, and to wash it is a small heresy. It would disturb the patina. I do not necessarily subscribe to that theory, especially given that my teapot is a little, unprepossessing number glazed inside and out in glossy black. It is not one of those fantastic Japanese or Chinese cast iron or clay dragons (which I still covet), it is a humble bit of pottery made in production in England. It was given to me many, many years ago as a gift. I have loved it ever since. It was a bit like finding a lost puppy when I pulled it out of the dishwasher. I was so relieved to find it had survived the buffeting of the machine.

I felt at home, really at home, holding that teapot in my hands like a long-lost relative. It has been too long since I have had feelings like that, and the bittersweet pangs tightened my throat and made my eyes glisten. We are the little things that ground us: books, a string of prayer beads, teapots: all are bearers of memory and comfort, the subtle avatars of the parts that make up our whole.

Small, quiet, humble: it is my teapot, and it looks good. It is home.


  1. It disgusts me that you put a puppy in the dishwasher. Wait, you didn't, the ducks of household management must have done that.

    You're teapot sounds fantastic. I'm fully of little-black-teapot envy.

  2. "You're teapot"

    Now that slip must be Freudian, or something like that.

  3. I guess it's obvious you also like to write. :-)

  4. I am dying to see how you might wax on regarding your frying pan (or perhaps a set of pint glasses?).

    Seriously? Only a great writer can tell the story of a teapot and give it a soul. Nice.

  5. Once again, the simplest things in life can often mean the most and bring such comfort.

  6. And all is right with the world. Nice post.

  7. Does your tea taste different now?
    Do you make tea the old-fashioned way? with loose tea and a steeping ball?

  8. I love your little teapot, and your story. You never cease to amaze with your writing, Irish, 'tis beautiful and leaves me feeling .. warm :)

  9. I'm so glad that your teapot made it through the dishwasher. I understand what that fugue state is like, especially before I have my coffee.
    Cheers, Irish!

  10. Well, it's not like you put your wok in there.

  11. Tea is astringent, it should kill any little bugs....theoretically.

    I would still have tea with you :P

  12. I spent 4 years in the Navy and washed my personal coffee cup exactly once (before I first used it). I kept a separate one for tea (a rarity, I admit). Teapots and coffee urns should be rinsed only. Imagine scrubbing out your favorite pipe between smokes.

  13. A mug full of tea is a good thing, although I must admit to being more of a coffee man.

  14. So true Irish. Even a little inanimate object can hold so much more than its contents...


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...