Thoughts of tea and frostbite

November 28, 2008 § 2 Comments


 Days slip by so quickly. When did I remember to breathe? When did I take a moment to truly become aware without trying to label it as a moment? Life is fleeting, a water bubble with such a fragile defining border so easily compromised.

Today I did actually take time to enjoy a cup of white tea with peach blossoms. Such a wonderful delicate flavor, that managed to bring me back into the present moment of simply sipping tea. The tea was a gift from a Japanese Buddhist friend from Tokyo. I’ve had the tea now for 6 months and usually only bring it out if someone visits (as my usual tea is not “guest quality”). Today, however, I fixed a cup for myself to sip in silence, in solitude.

Last year I was lucky enough to meet Thich Nhat Hanh when he visited Colorado. I was invited to a picnic with him and his sangha from Plum Village. He’s a delightful teacher, fondly called “Thay” by his students. At the teaching he gave in Denver later that night, he spoke about the cloud in his cup of tea. He said that the whole world could be found in his cup of tea, even a cloud. The water had fallen from the sky as rain, but before that it was a cloud. How simple, but also awe inspiring. He took a sip of his tea, looked up and smiled. “I just swallowed a cloud,” he said. I think everyone present smiled with him.

One of the cats that dwells with me (Krishna is his name) loves when I put on my robes. He has a blast with my belt. (I must admit to having locked him in the bathroom a time or two as I got dressed.) Krishna lies in wait, out of sight but close by, as I wrap and fold my shantab (lower robe) around my waist, mindfully getting the folds just right to minimize having to fiddle with it once the belt is tied. I make sure the bottom edges are mostly even. Then I hold it all in place with my elbows as I reach for the belt, which is a long woven strip of cloth, about 2.5 inches wide and maybe 9 feet long. I begin wrapping it around my waist, which is Krishna’s cue to come flying out of hiding and attempt to make off with the belt. The more I wrestle it away from him the more he enjoys it and the crazier the folds in my robe become. Eventually I get everything straightened out and get the belt tied off. Still not done, though, as Krishna continue to eye the slightly dangling ends of the belt. If I don’t watch him until he finds something else to play with, he’ll be climbing the shantab and hanging by the belt once again. Once he climbed up the inside of my robe! He really likes when I sit on the floor, as his preferred sleeping spot is found by curling up under the folds of my robes.

Krishna, and his 3 brothers, are a bit of a crazy story. Their mother, Durga, is a 3-legged cat that I’ve fed outside my window for the past 4 years. Earlier this year she was looking very bad, greasy and bonier than usual. I’ve been working on catching her without success. But she got a bit sloppy and I got her in a live-trap back in April. She came inside, got cleaned up and fed. She then disappeared for 2 days. I couldn’t find her. Then I looked in the back of a closet one morning, and there she was with four squirmy little things suckling. What?!? So, I got 5 for the price of 1. Durga came inside just in time to have her babies. All 5 of them still sleep together. I had planned on having them placed in homes, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take a mother’s children away from her. So they’ve found refuge in my little apartment. Durga is happy, although isn’t up for belly rubs. She’ll sit within 18 inches of me and watch her babies climb all over me, but she doesn’t want direct contact with the weird guy in robes quite yet. She’s happy and back to a good weight, but happy to stay 18 inches away for now.

We’re expecting snow tonight in Colorado. I always have mixed feelings about the winter here. I truly adore the cold and the snow, but then I think about all the sentient beings out sleeping in such weather. It’s the nature of perception, of joy and suffering. It is always subjective, never truly substantial. A joy from one perspective, and a source of frost bite from another. Yeah, maybe it’s karma,  but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to save them. Karma has a lot to do with people’s situations, but it doesn’t mean that it’s destiny. We can choose to push beyond such limits. We can dare to think that we can make a difference. That’s the beauty of Bodhichitta.


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