Memorize and recite

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Started “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” in the park; words by James Agee, photos by Walker Evans.

Grace asked me for recommendations of poems to memorize and recite for class. I started throwing out suggestions—Elizabeth Bishop! Maxine Kumin! Auden! Everything by Robert Hass and Marie Howe, OMG, Marie Howe!—and I realized: Wow, I do really love poetry. I never thought I did. I always thought poetry eluded my intellect; poems never presented themselves to me in that bold, friendly way like novels did. Poems hid behind veils and shadows; poems could be capricious, malicious. I have never believed that I ever “got” poetry, and I have certainly never believed that I could ever write it (that much has not changed).

Being married to a poet makes you realize how very difficult writing is, and how very miraculous it is when everything comes out well. Poetry is a different animal to me, often alien and shy, but I respect it. I imagine I will always be reading poems, remaining continually and happily mystified by them. I will always love them in the way that you love a humpback whale, because it is so far from being you.

“I have been standing all my life in the/direct path of a battery of signals”

I memorized and recited various poems in my career as an English major, but the one I most remember is “Planetarium,” by Adrienne Rich. It was a difficult, dizzying experience. I mispronounced “Tycho” and only guessed at “Uranusborg.” And those middling couplets were so hard to remember, but that last, fast stanza—it was a delight to proclaim; it made my little sophomore body feel strong, unconquerable, distinct.

We like to talk about the things that “our children” will do, things that we sort of did as children but that we want to elevate to a virtue, to distinguish our offspring from the mundane, materialistic masses. Our children will never watch TV. Our children will play outside every day. Our children will not be pacified with iPhones and iPads. Our children will play with sticks and string. Our children will study Asian languages from birth. All of these things will surely fall by the wayside when and if we actually have babies, but one thing is for sure: Our children WILL memorize poems.

The goodness of Nettles, aka bragging on my husband

Last night, Stephanie of The Charlotte posted a generous and brilliant review of local band Nettles–aka Guion and friends. We were really excited about it! Naturally, I think Nettles is incredible, but people take my opinion with a grain of salt, owing to my conflict of interest (i.e., being married to the front man). It was thrilling to hear Stephanie’s opinion, particularly since she and her husband, James, have such refined and carefully cultivated tastes in music. All that to say, enjoy her review here at The Charlotte.

And if you’re in town this weekend, you’re in luck: Nettles is playing at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar this Saturday night, July 30, at 9:15. $7 at the door. Hope to see you there! If you can’t be there, listen to some of the new tracks on the Nettles Band Camp page here.

The way of tea

If there is anything I have learned in my 23 years of life, it is this: Once you start drinking high-quality tea, you will never go back.

to do
The best way to begin the day; a cup of tea in my college dorm room, circa 2009.

I love tea. I have at least one cup a day, and in the fall and winter, at least two or three. I think my love affair with tea was started by my friendship with Emily, who lived in Ireland and drank strong tea on a daily basis. She introduced me to the joy of a daily cup of black tea and the incomparable usefulness of an electric kettle. There were many days during which we would console each other in our dorm room with our cups of tea.

Living in Japan for a summer also reinforced my love of good tea. As you probably already know, tea is a way of life in Japan. Knowing how to perform a proper tea ceremony is a serious art (in Japanese, the ceremony is called “the way of tea,” which is awesome). I lived in Japan during the hottest and muggiest months of the summer, but after my sweaty hour-long commute home from school, my host mom would have a piping hot cup of matcha waiting for me. It sounds really unappealing to drink hot tea on a 102-degree day in a house without air conditioning, but I came to enjoy that daily habit of unwinding with a perfect cup of matcha.

I think that’s one of the things that I love most about tea. To me, tea has always been associated with peace, calmness, and winding down. In my mind, coffee is commonly associated with busyness, the Starbucks empire, caffeine addiction, and drinking enough to stay awake. Tea can also serve these purposes, but I do believe that it has a very different gravitas than coffee. Tea is calming, centering. It always reminds me to slow down.

I used to drink whatever tea was cheapest at the grocery store, but those days are long gone. I don’t drink any coffee and so I have learned to justify my expensive tea habits. I’m not a tea expert at all, and true tea aficionados would look down their noses at me, but here’s what I really like lately:

The Republic of Tea, Earl Grey

Republic of Tea, Earl Greyer

Earl Grey makes my heart happy, and I’ve finally found a relatively inexpensive brand that I really like. I drink it almost daily. I found it at our local World Market, but I think it’s also available at higher-end grocery stores like Whole Foods or Fresh Market. $10.50 for 50 bags.

Harney & Sons, Paris

Harney & Sons, Paris tea

We finally got our Whole Foods back in Charlottesville and I was primarily excited about it so I could buy some Harney & Sons Paris tea. I was first introduced to this tea when someone gave it to our family as a gift and I fell in love. I don’t like fruity or herbal teas, but this a delicate black tea with a distinct fruity and vanilla aroma, with some lemon in there too. I feel like I’m on vacation when I drink it. Our Whole Foods doesn’t carry this tea, but Guion was a dear and ordered me their new boxed Paris set, which is $10 for 50 bags (and apparently just sold out!). You can also buy it in fancy silk sachets, $8 for 20 sachets in a beautiful tin.

PG Tips

PG Tips

I’m told this tea is standard fare in the United Kingdom. Once you try PG Tips, all other black teas will taste like water. This is the real deal. Tastes great with milk or cream. Grocery stores in the southeast like Harris Teeter and Kroger will carry it. Usually sold for something like $6 for 40 bags.

Loose leaf or powdered green tea (Chinese or Japanese)

Harney & Sons, Matcha iri genmaicha

Since I can’t go to Japan to get my green tea anymore, I now rely on the local Asian markets and Angela. (Angela sent me home with a delightful tin of loose leaf Chinese green tea after my visit to D.C.) We have several varieties of loose leaf green tea in our pantry and need to remember to drink them more frequently. The tea pictured above is from Harney & Sons and sold for $9 for a tin.

Darjeeling loose leaf tea

Harney & Sons, Darjeeling loose leaf tea

Grace brought back many wonderful presents for all of us from her half-year abroad, including genuine loose-leaf darjeeling tea from the Darjeeling, India, region itself. It would be an understatement to say that I was very excited. Darjeeling is a black tea, but very different from your standard European black teas. Brisk and refreshing. If you’re not as fortunate as I am to have someone bring you back some legit tea from India, Harney & Sons has several varieties of loose leaf darjeeling for sale. The tin shown above sells for $7.25.

I am very lucky to have a husband who is also very fond of tea and also does not drink coffee. We agree on most teas–except for lapsang souchong, which he loves and I can’t stand (it tastes like the smoke of a bonfire in your mouth). Last week, we went to a laidback Chinese tea ceremony at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, one of our favorite places downtown. We walked away with an expensive but unbelievably wonderful bag of oolong (picked in some remote mountain region of China).

Do you drink tea? If so, what are some of your favorites? And if any of you are more seasoned tea experts, how can you tell when a loose leaf tea has “gone bad” (or when it’s no longer worth drinking)? I don’t know this and I think I should.

Here’s to many happy and peaceful cups of tea!

Mini-burst-aster

So. We got pummeled by what appeared to be a tiny tornado last night (also called a “mini-burst” apparently) that caused a lot of damage. We were without power from about 5 p.m. last night until 6 a.m. this morning. Lightning ripped giant oak trees out of the ground, crushing our neighbor’s truck and trailer. Downed power lines splayed across the street. Our porch chairs were flung out in the street when we got home. Caution tape was tied over our street to prevent anyone from entering. It was outrageous. The whole neighborhood was huddled around outside, in shock. The storm happened in about 15 minutes and took out most of Charlottesville’s power in its wake.

We managed to make the most of an unfortunate situation, however. We were planning on making dinner for our new friends Michael and Mallory (Guion had a lovely dish of ricotta-stuffed shells waiting to go in the oven), but after we couldn’t figure out how to start our oven without power, we wandered to the downtown mall. We managed to find the one place that miraculously had power, Eppie’s, and had a nice dinner there. Michael and Mallory were lovely and fun and we had a great time with them. (I was especially pleased to find a fellow reader in Mallory. I haven’t met any girls here except for our neighbors.) Conveniently, the concert we were planning on going to (our worship leader Sam’s band, Hill & Wood) relocated to the Tea Bazaar just next door. And then we came back home and slept in sweltering, humid blackness.

There was something remotely touching about the surge of interdependence in the neighborhood, though. Everyone huddled together in hushed groups on the street, walking together along the dark and eerie downtown mall, swapping horror and survival stories from the afternoon. It evoked images of “The Road,” for some reason, although infinitely less bleak. Charlottesville is still very pretty and lush, despite all the trees on the ground.

Anyway.

I think this is very interesting. This is from the paper I’m proofing today at work.

The critical implication of the research on evolutionary preparedness is that people are likely to react with little fear to certain types of objectively dangerous stimuli that evolution has not prepared them for, such as guns, hamburgers, automobiles, smoking, and unsafe sex, even when they recognize the threat at a cognitive level. Types of stimuli that people are evolutionarily prepared to fear, such as caged spiders, snakes, or heights (when adequate safety measures are in place), evoke a visceral response even when, at a cognitive level, they are recognized to be harmless.

Loewenstein et al., “Risk as Feelings,” Psychological Bulletin, 2001

Guion and I are going away for the weekend! He’s turning 23 on Sunday and so we are going to celebrate his and Emma’s birthdays with a bunch of friends at Emma’s family’s new cabin. Photos of the mini-burst carnage coming on Monday night, ideally. Be safe; have a lovely weekend.