Tea and a Great Piece of Writing

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

A bit of a book review for my more literary friends…

Time has had its foot on the accelerator of late, driving us forward much too quickly, compressing what might normally be summer’s leisure into streaks and blurs of heat and humidity, flowers, bees and drying lawns.

But I’ve found a perfect book for the time-snippets I’ve been able to carve out to maintain my reading habit.

The Elegance of The Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery is a story told in the voices of two main characters: a brilliant, cynical young girl and a brilliant, middle-aged woman trapped by societal expectation in a low-class existence. I haven’t gotten terribly far, but it’s the kind of book that doesn’t require obsessive reading (which is why it’s just right for a summer season that’s squashed with to-do’s and squeezed between the schedule-laden seasons of spring and fall).

One of the things I’m most appreciating about The Elegance of The Hedgehog is the abundance of fabulous lines that tempt me to create the book’s very own list of quotes ~ which I haven’t done and won’t do, but the thought is testament enough to the author’s  wordsmithing.

In any event, those of you who know me, know I enjoy my tea. So finding the topic of this particular entry appealing will be no surprise ~ but it’s the larger essence, the rise and fall of the thought process, the meditation, the skilled expanding and condensing of a moment speaking to life and power and subtlety that I found truly delightful .. and worthy of sharing.

So here it is:

I pour the tea and we sip in silence. We have never had our tea together in the morning, and this break with our usual protocol imbues the ritual with a strange flavor.

Yes, this sudden transmutation in the order of things seems to enhance our pleasure, as if consecrating the unchanging nature of ritual established over our afternoons together, a ritual that has ripened into a solid and meaningful reality. Today, because it has been transgressed, our ritual suddenly acquires all its power; we are tasting the splendid gift of this unexpected morning as if it were some precious nectar; ordinary gestures have an extraordinary resonance, as we breathe in the fragrance of the tea, savor it, lower our cups, serve more, and sip again; every gesture has the bright aura of rebirth. At moments like this the web of life is revealed by the power of the ritual, and each time we renew our ceremony, the pleasure will be all the greater for our having violated one of its principles. Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn – and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes it merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn; human life continues to throb.

So, let us drink a cup of tea.

(From  pg. 91 of The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery)


ps: Other great reads this summer that I’d recommend have been “The Help” (Kathryn Stockett), and “The Art of Racing in The Rain” (Garth Stein). A comprehensive list of my favorite books can be found at patriciasaxton.wordpress.com


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