On elders, on teachers.

This week my grandmother passed away, and of course I thought of the past and our experiences together as I was growing up.  She was my first exposure to plants – although she wasn’t an herbalist, she had a great affinity for flowers and being out in the garden, rain or shine.  She was always so quiet sitting with them; she tended to them every day and called them her babies.  I still do the same thing.

Right before she passed, I had watched this documentary on the herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy called Juliette of the Herbs, something about her oddly reminded me of my grandmother – even though my own was not so educated, there was still so much she gave me through her presence, similarly to Juliette.  Juliette was a teacher to one of my teachers and she pioneered some of the first veterinary herbal medicine literature.  She is truly an inspiration and a legend in the herbal community.

If you have a little time, this is a sweet documentary about this gypsy woman’s life – it reminds me of reconnecting with simple living but with an adventurous spirit and the importance of our connections to the plants that surround us and how they can heal us.  It is worth the thought – who and what are you learning from?  Taping into the deep wisdom of our elders, and the nature around us is imminently important in this world now where technology rules our lives.

To Juliette, who passed away in 2009, thank you for your teachings and that so many years later, we still continue to learn from you.  To my grandmother, who taught me the importance of a listening heart, rest in peace.

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/8638/Juliette-of-the-Herbs

Ritual in the New Year.

Another year has rolled around and, like many, I’m thinking of what is to come and the word “ritual” keeps coming to mind.  Not just in light of the New Year, but often I am contemplating how I can shape things differently in my life to allow for more growth and positive change.  Daily rituals are one way that I have found helpful to do that.  A lot of you may wake up every morning, make coffee, and dredge around the house waiting for the caffeine surge to pry your eyes open.  Come on, I’m from Seattle, I also love coffee!  But living in Asia for years also made me acquire a taste for tea.

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In Chinese, gong fu cha, literally “kung fu tea”, is a term used to describe a way of making tea in ceremony, with “great skill” as some would call it.  It’s kind of like wine tasting – you may sit down at someone’s house, or their tea shop, and they will bring out a nice oolong or pu-erh, and begin the ritual of rinsing the tea, pouring it into your cup and then pouring theirs.  Your cup is tiny, smaller than a shot glass, and you drink the tea in this way – one tiny cup at a time, enjoying conversation with your host as they keep refilling your cup, possibly trying out different teas over the course of an hour or so.  This type of ritual tea drinking, to me at least, is about sitting, being present, sharing stories, and enjoying small pleasures in life.  Sometimes in the morning, I’ll swap out my coffee and sit and make some tea in this way to enjoy the morning by listening to the quiet and enjoying the flavors of the tea (Rich, earthy pu-erhs are my favorite, and then roasted teas like Dong Ding oolong.  I really also love a simple Tie Guan Yin or Bao Zhong.  High Mountain (or Gao Shan) oolongs are also amazing and clean.)

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On the topic of health, tea has a lot of great health benefits (antioxidant-rich, may aid in lowering cholesterol, weight loss – the list is long!), and I believe pure teas like greens, oolongs and pu-erh, have a way of cleansing the palate and digestive system in a way that other beverages do not.  You’ll feel a tea “high” sometimes while you’re drinking these types of teas, because your body has been hydrated and nourished.

What I’m suggesting to you in this new year, that you look at one thing that you can sit and enjoy and be present in.  As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”  What can you do to start off your year that might be a new ritual?  Something nourishing, and soul-enriching, that doesn’t make you feel rushed, but grounds you and makes you feel good.  Maybe instead of rushing into this year and thinking of all the things to take away, think about what is already there or something you can add to enrich it further.  More good stuff, less bad stuff (as my yoga teacher used to say)!

If you have interest in learning more about tea, or doing some tastings in Seattle, you could try Teahouse Kuanyin in Wallingford – they have every kind of tea you can think of and often have tastings.  Floating Leaves in Ballard also does tastings of Taiwanese oolongs, and Miro tea in Ballard has a great selection as well.

To health in 2016!  xo, WD Renzetti