August 6, 2012. Safe at home with the Dàgōng.*
Settling in after a semi-busy day hanging around with the Wee Lass. What an amazing thing to bear witness to the irrefutable knowledge that she is indeed my offspring. Went out to buy tea today, and ended up in a ceremony, just for us. If I had the presence of mind, I would have bowed before I sat down.
I can't set aside the notion that I should have bowed. There was no tea house door that demanded it as protocol, but still. To be a guest in what is after all a place of business is rare. Ah, that isn't quite right. The illusion of being a guest in those gray places is all too common. Market research has decreed it so, and perhaps I fall for it more often than not, a state of affairs that makes me sad and small.
But today, Wee Lass and I had good fortune in the tea shop. Not one, but two people with knowledge and enthusiasm engaged us in talking about, sampling and buying tea. The young lady who asked us how we were, what we were interested in, and sat down with us for tasting of samples. The joy of seeing a whole tub of fresh loose tea, and the invitation to smell the aroma. Wee Lass seemed to really dig it, if being somewhat shy about commenting. The owner arrived, and to my delight and surprise he remembered me from my one short visit to his shop months ago!
So there we were, a fine pair out for a day of sustenance, entertainment and the acquisition of small delights. We enjoyed tiny cups of green tea and black tea and oolong. The sort of thing I get a kick out of, but one in which you don't expect youngsters to truly enjoy.
But that Wee Lass, she has a wonderful knack of following a path of her own making. She wanted to taste the teas. She watched intently as the assistant and the owner brewed little cups and poured the samples. When I looked over at her, I was amused and delighted by the curiosity she radiated with her expression. I lifted the cups to breathe in the aroma; she closed her eyes and sniffed. I blew on the tea to cool it, and she did the same. We both sipped and swished and drank, savoring the tea and the moment.
It was wonderful. We chatted with the owner, who told us about the tea, and the farm in China where he gets it. We talked about green, black and oolong, sitting there surrounded by delicate porcelain tea kettles, fish and dragons carved of jade. We learned the price of some tea in China, backed up with anecdotes about the province of Fujian. My daughter professed her liking of Chinese green tea. And very much to my surprise, she declared the Ti Kwan Yin oolong to be good. I recalled that the name is a variation on the Chinese goddess Guanyin, sometimes translated as 'Iron Goddess of Mercy'. In a moment of fancy, I told myself that may not be an accident. Would it not be a wonderful thing to have associations with compassion and mercy?
Who expects a youngster to be interested in such things as good tea? Long ago as a child, on those rare moments when I managed to look up from my books or cease the questioning in my head for a few moments, I had inklings of the quirks that that would come to define my life. Later as a young man and adult, those inklings became full-blown knowledge, a knowledge that embarrassed me and led me to quietly hide it from the world.
But on an otherwise mundane afternoon, I entered a tea house of the moment as an ordinary man, and departed it as an emperor. As we stood to leave, I reflected on the confirmation that she is indeed the blood of my blood. A smart, beautiful diamond she is, and we shall have tea in the bamboo pavilion of my heart.
*I may be relying overly much on free translators, but to the best of my knowledge "Dàgōng" is a phonetic translation of a Chinese word for 'archduchess', which by extension would be the daughter of an emperor.