As Carl and I prepared our second pot of loose-leaf tea this morning, we started talking about how drinking tea really does help one get through the winter, which led me to musing about how it is the ritual involved in making tea (especially loose-leaf) that helps as much or even more than simply drinking a hot beverage.
Which led me to thinking about rituals in general, and how useful they are, and how in our quest to make life easier for ourselves, we have lost so many rituals that have helped us see and touch on the deeper meaning in life.
Tea, for one – the act of measuring the tea leaves, warming the pot, heating the water to the proper temperature, steeping for the prescribed time (and if you are fortunate enough to have a clear pot, watching the leaves expand as they steep), and then pouring the tea into your cup is far more work, true, than dunking a tea bag in a cup of hot water, but the reward is so much greater.
Or cooking. Yes, it’s easier and quicker (and times when it’s all one can do) to tear open bags of frozen vegetables and frozen chicken, dump it all into a pot with canned tomato sauce and a can of chicken broth, but I know from experience that it is so much more satisfying to chop fresh vegetables myself, adding them to the pot one at a time, slice up the meat that I cooked myself, use fresh tomatoes instead of canned sauce, and my own chicken stock. The ritual of preparing the food myself adds a depth of flavor that cannot come from anything else.
And I do realize that sometimes – often – it’s all one can do to do it the easy, quick way. Hey, I keep frozen vegetables in my freezer, tea bags in my cupboard. But if one can make something a ritual, by all means, do so.
I think that applies to writing, as well. I have one story I am attempting to write out longhand. It’s driving me distracted. My fingers (and wrists) have been long accustomed to typing: re-training them for long stretches of handwriting is torture. It takes longer, too – and to be perfectly honest, I just don’t have that time right now for writing all my stories by hand, first, and then typing them up. So I use the computer for most of my stories, saving only one out for writing by hand. I also keep a journal, so that by choosing (out of necessity) the quicker, easier, more practical path for writing, I don’t lose entirely the beauty of the ritual of pen scratching, ink flowing onto paper, hand creating what my mind sees, slowing down and enjoying the act of writing, as well as the result.