T is for Tea, of course. And just as a conversation meanders around a pot of tea shared among friends, so this conversation slowly and circuitously will get to the points.
My mother worked teaching mathematics and then she went to art school, but I always remember her being around in the evenings, ironing, listening to the radio, and whenever I got home in whatever state I was in, she would offer me a nice cup of tea. That meant strong, very strong, hot, with milk and usually sugar. Maybe a piece of dark chocolate along with it that you could dunk.
Anything could be solved with a cup of tea! Or at least, you would feel better if you drank a cup of tea while dealing with your stuff.
I never realized until she died that it was really and truly possible to love someone and pretty much hate them at the same time. Or, that love didn’t necessarily cure all the awful effects of betrayal and those kinds of things that can inhabit a marriage.
I learned from her that life is a long process of learning how to inhabit contradictions.
Back when I was a hipster, before hipsterdom had come into being, I had two outfits: a pair of army pants and a turquoise and black striped cotton skirt. I wore them with a green boy scouts shirt or a neon pink lycra polo. I had a good luck bird tattooed on my chest. I never gave anyone the time of day. I must have been a pain to get along with. I was tough. I tried everything but got stuck to nothing. I was barred from the Alcatraz for throwing a table. I hit an Egyptian man in the chest with a rock when he whispered fucking to me on the street in Cairo.
I inhabited a world where poetry reigned supreme, and justice was always possible, with enough struggle.
I traveled through Africa alone because that’s where I was born.
I got a degree in ten years, because there was always more interesting stuff to do.
I had babies, lived on a self-sufficient organic farm, learned to be a midwife, joined and left a religious cult, kept a marriage going, started running, cooked food for myself and others, left continents and returned, learned and forgot languages, and through it all I have never inhabited the high ground to your low ground. And I refuse to inhabit the low ground to your highs.
There is no high ground. When you imagine that the ground you inhabit is higher than others, you start to sink and that sinkhole, although attractive, is ultimately another illusion. One time we were sitting having tea on our farm, amongst the mess and chaos of small children and a subsistence farm ... and my mother's cup lost it! The cup of tea just dropped in to her lap and she was left holding only the handle. Wipe up, crack up, use the handle-less cup for a paintbrush holder, and get on with it, in true Cockney fashion.
So here’s a cup of tea to you, and here’s to having a cup of tea with each other, and here’s to all the things that may or may not begin with the letter “t”, and here’s to living deeply: deeply within and surrounded by contradiction and paradox. Here’s to continuing to have friendships and relationships with people who don’t necessarily see eye to eye with me, who don’t agree with me, who don’t understand where I am coming from. Here’s to long nights of discussion and here’s to building a strong house of thought using the bricks and mortar of our own imaginations. Here’s to open hearts and open minds, to loving and hating, to sadness and intense joy, to night and to day.