Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Book I'm Not Writing: The Tea Merchant

Republic of Tea's lychee blossom tea

"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.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Graceful said...

Just read your tea pilgrimmage and art pilgrimmage posts, and am in love with both ideas. Mind if I pop in from time to time to see how your journey unfolds?

BTW, glad to see you are trying your hand at fiction -- after reading two of your books, I thought you might have the inclination...

I've always been really afraid of writing fiction...but I used to say that about creative writing in general, so who knows what the future holds...

9:30 AM  
Blogger JennyRain said...

I love how you weave words together so carefully... you are great at giving life to a piece of writing :)

9:45 AM  
Blogger Phoenix-Karenee said...

I wanted to stop by, and when I saw you had posted another story you're not writing, I came immediately. I think this is my favorite. His complete lack of care for his caring hostess just begs for a comeuppance and a few life lessons to change his heart ... or at the very least, to reveal to the reader that he should change. I like heart-change stories. Because, when well done, they open the pages of the soul and make us think about our own journeys.

And now ... I wanted to make sure to speak to you about the comment you left on my blog about "Answers to Poems" because you made me think deeper, and it was fascinating to ponder.

I think answers to poems come in how they stick to life, but also in the illumination of now that they are even if they've never been read before. I just discovered the answer to a question I'm sure I didn't know I was asking when I wrote the poem, just by looking at my life now compared to then.

It's always a mystery of a miracle to find yet another of the many ways God is in control. Thank you for giving me the prompt to think more about it, because I rejoice in God more as a result.

AND the word verification is "bless" -I kid you not!- God blesses me through you in so many ways.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Glynn said...

Yay! An update on what you're not writing! Of course, is it possible to write about what you're not writing without really writing about it?

I just confused myself.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous heather said...

This is exactly true for me. When I get too serious about my writing, I'm overwhelmed and stifled. But when I let my characters play and joke around with each other, the words flow. And that's when the bits and pieces of humanity and hurts and joys sneak out.

11:37 AM  
Blogger A Simple Country Girl said...

* Glynn, perhaps if L.L. uses invisible ink it will make more sense?

* L.L., did you write this while in a flu-stupor? Whenever you wrote it, I think your mini revolt just picked up some speed.

What is the image? Are those real lychee flowers? How big are they? I thought they were more plain and sticky looking? Inquiring minds...

Blessings.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Sandra Heska King said...

More. More! I love your fiction pilgrimage.

6:06 PM  
Blogger n. davis rosback said...

i don't have a story that i'm not writing right now.
but, i have been thinking that it would be fun to send you a couple of hand puppets for your next interview with dude.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

A little bit more please...
My problem is taking myself altogether too lightly. I think it's time I got a bit more purposeful. Maybe I would actually get something done!

9:35 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Now, how can you possibly say that the "sorts of things" you've been doing "don't serve any useful purpose"? Enjoyment is purpose enough. Besides, I'm not up for admitting I'm following you on pilgrimages and reading what you're not writing so I won't get anything out of it.

Travel on, drink (tea) on, write on.

10:01 PM  
Blogger M.L. Gallagher said...

I want more!!!

and I appreciate the wisdom in your post -- thanks!

12:09 PM  
OpenID mairmusic said...

The story start is intriguing. But almost more so is the essay that precedes it. Your musings on creatively resonate with me/ It's why I started my blog too, to create outside of my chosen field of music.
http://mairmusic.wordpress.com/

5:28 PM  
OpenID mairmusic said...

The story start is intriguing. But almost more so is the essay that precedes it. Your musings on creatively resonate with me/ It's why I started my blog too, to create outside of my chosen field of music.
http://mairmusic.wordpress.com/

5:28 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

:) I have my hands full writing what I am writing, without writing what I'm not writing! At any rate I think it's healthy indeed not to take ourselves so seriously. Maybe creativity is found or somehow embedded in the reality that it is something proceeding from us which is really beyond us. And when I start thinking I'm really the creator, and it's not somehow beyond me, that is when I get bogged down, and writing becomes a chore, and no longer a wonder and joy.

Well, I can guess at that in only small measure, but interesting post here, L.L. And maybe I'll have to try my hand at a novel for the same reason. Nice imagery and movement in the story, by the way. I think you've read your share of novels, my guess.

7:52 PM  
Blogger emily wierenga said...

so, so, so good.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Jingle said...

http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/thursday-poets-rally-week-29-sept-23-29/

hello, friend:

I invite you to Attend Thursday Poets Rally Week 29, linking in a poem by commenting,
The benefits are mutual and for first time participants, you are required to comment for 18
Participants from my list….as one of the participants, other poets will visit and comment for your entry as well.. why not give it a try?


Happy Thursday!





u deserve the best.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Jingle said...

stunning story,
masterfully done.

10:18 AM  

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