The Book I'm Not Writing: The Tea Merchant
"It is a paradox of creative recovery that we must get serious about taking ourselves lightly. We must work at learning to play," says Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way.
I'm not sure that I'm in need of creative recovery, but I do feel the need to take myself more lightly. The more I do, the more creative I feel myself becoming.
What makes us take ourselves too seriously? I have my life excuses, but I believe I'm also susceptible to societal values. Cameron notes, "We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals."
I have been staging a mini revolt against this ambition by doing all sorts of things that don't serve any useful purpose: an art pilgrimage, a tea pilgrimage, and now fiction writing.
I really have no plans to produce the next famous, or even infamous, novel. I don't know that I will ever finish these little stories I'm spinning. They are my word cups, and I'm floating little tea leaves in them just for fun.
The Tea Merchant
He jumped into the jeep, jammed his key into the ignition. Hills rose up, everywhere around him. Mountains, really, stepped green and just now hidden by a stubborn white morning fog. It had rained last night, hard and long against his borrowed hut. Still, Li Yang had made her way over the wet path and greeted him before dawn with a cup of tea, green.
Stein had drunk the cup in haste. It could take hours to wind his way up to his destination. But if the rumors were true, it would be worth the journey. Li Yang handed him a small basket. It contained hard-boiled quail eggs, a dried teacake he could scrape as needed, and a few plums. It was a gesture he accepted for politeness sake, though he'd already packed what he wanted the night before. It was important to keep his contacts happy, he believed, and so the basket now sat on the passenger seat, precariously balanced on top of the necessary gifts he was bringing for the trip.
Li Yang, it was said, had her ancestry in emperors' lines, the Tang and Sung dynasties. It was not clear if this was true, and Stein didn't really care. Li had been there when he needed her. She could have her roots in any history she wanted to think she did, and he would nod and pretend belief.
Stein put his hand to his left shirt pocket. The paper was there, and he wasn't sure why he instinctively checked to affirm it. Scrawled across the front was a set of directions that seemed unnecessary. How hard could it be when there was one road before him? But Li Yang had quietly insisted he take the paper along. Sure, he could do that, if it would keep her happy. What could it hurt? She would think she had done a good thing and be none the wiser when he emptied his pocket later on.
Now the engine was shaking, and its power called through the gas pedal. He pushed down firmly, swore under his breath about the fog, and began his climb.
Republic of Tea Lychee Blossom tea photo, by L.L. Barkat.