I had one of those "a-ha" moments this morning. I was paging through the book I wanted to review today - Tea Celebrations: The Way to Serenity by Alexandra Stoddard - looking for something specific I had read earlier and mourning, as usual, the lack of photographs. Suddenly my pea-brain made the connection between my desire for photographs and what I was reading.
Tea is about slowing down, about reacquainting ourselves with our selves. When is the last time you gave your imagination free rein? When was the last time you sat and simply daydreamed? It is these moments of dreaming that bring us in touch, once again, with our earliest goals and fantasies. ... Spend a few minutes and relax over tea doing nothing. Think of it as exercise for your spirit.
She suggests that all the rituals and beautifications we perform in preparation for tea are part of the slowing down. The placement of flowers in a vase, pressing a tablecloth, laying out china... all can be done with a slowness, a living in the moment, and a kind of reverence for beauty and ritual.
I realized that she's talking about the part I call the Tea Party Lady, the part of us that can stop and smell the flowers... and the tea. I translate that to be the soul, not the spirit. To make a bigfat generalization, perhaps coffee feeds the spirit, the mind, the energy, the yang parts of us. But these kinds of tea rituals and ceremonies - especially in the Asian traditions - feed the soul, the emotions, the yin parts of us. This is how it feels to me, in my own relationship to coffee and tea.
This book helped me clarify what it was I was doing. When I do "tea", I do it from my soul. And that helped me understand why I long for beautiful pictures in these books. When I pick up a tea book I'm looking for soothing and beautiful imagery. I believe the soul speaks primarily in feeling and images, and so for me, the photographs are more than just occasional adornment. They're necessary! Primary!! Or should be. IMO, talking about tea with wordswordswords just doesn't cut it. That's why I love the Victoria magazine and The Pleasures of Tea books. The photographs speak to my soul.
So, pardon me when I complain about the lack of pictures in this book. It's a lovely book, and the sentiments are well expressed. She discusses types of tea, etiquette, and rituals, and there are some recipes. It's a book I would recommend for anybody who wants to understand how a tea-master sees life and relates to the tea ceremony. But it is just wordswordswords, front to back. It's not the kind of book that will draw me back again and again. Unless they republish ... with photos.