Friday, June 15, 2012

Faint Fuzzies

Venus Transit
This post was inspired by Alex Zorach’s Grasping The Aesthetic Of A Tea Company. It wasn’t anything he said, though he is often quite interesting. It was the picture he included of a nebula. You see I am a bit of a geek. I have an 8” dobsonian telescope and a 5 ½” short tube reflector on a computerized mount with GPS. The 8” scope was actually bought for my youngest son. He recently built solar filters for both scopes so we could view the Venus transit. If you missed it, it will not happen again in your lifetime. He took this picture with a webcam attached to the eyepiece. Yes, he has snatched the nerd pebble from my hand and yes, I am so proud.

During the summer, we take our scopes out into the night air and turn them upward to view distant galaxies and nebula. These are affectionately known as faint fuzzies to backyard astronomers. Why? Because that is exactly how they appear. You have seen the Hubble pictures with all the glorious color and great detail. Well, from your backyard, if you can find it, the same object will most likely appear as the faintest puff of smoke with no great detail. It is just a gray wisp that often you can only catch with averted vision. That means much of the time you can’t even look directly at it.

Why bother?

With the fabulous Hubble pictures on the Internet why go seaching for faint fuzzies? For some it is the hunt - The thrill of star hopping across the sky to point your scope at an elusive object that only a few people in the world have ever seen. For others it is the awe of knowing how unimaginably large and distant is that tiny dim object in the eyepiece. Even knowing the facts, you realize it is still impossible to truly grasp. For me looking up at the sky has always been a spiritual experience.

What does this have to do with tea?

The majority of tea consumed in America is Lipton and served over ice. Some of it is prepared well, most of it is not. The masses go through their day unaware, or at least unconcerned, that there are other teas. This is like the city dweller who has seen the moon and little else other than the sky glow from the city lights and is obliviously ok with it.

Some do branch out and grab a box of Bigelow, Twinings, Celestial Seasonings, or whatever else might be on their grocers shelves. These are equivalent to those who have seen the stars with their eyes and can find the big dipper and Orion’s belt. I have no figures to back it up but I imagine the proportion of the population that can claim even this level of achievement is not that large.

Once you move into loose leaf it is like backyard astronomy with a scope or binoculars. Yes, binoculars will reveal an incredible amount of the heavens and most people already own a pair. As in astronomy, with tea you are limited only by the amount of time you put into it and what you can afford. Even at the conservative end of the frugal loose leaf scale, where the Everyday Tea Drinker here often resides, there are plenty of truly amazing tastes, aromas, and adventures awaiting.

Every now and then you have a night where the sky just cooperates. The atmosphere is clear and steady. You get the opportunity to view something you have never been able to catch before and you are inspired and amazed. I have had steeping sessions like that. Where everything comes together and notes never even hinted at before pop out in the sip. These are moments when all you can do is set back and go wow!

Then there are times when you research a tea and learn where it comes from and how rare it is, and about the conditions in which it is grown. You get a glimpse of how difficult it really was just to bring that leaf to your cup and you are amazed. It is like studying one of the faint fuzzies and grasping for the first time what you are seeing.

My favorite times with tea are similar to my favorite nights of stargazing. When my steeping becomes a spiritual event. When attention to detail pays off in enjoyment of the dance of the leaf and all the aromas wafting above the liquid ambrosia. I take the warm cup in hand, bring it to my lips and sip. The world around me ceases to exist in that instant, as I drink in the moment. I meditate on the smell, the taste, and the feel of the liquor as it glides over the tongue. I am at once relaxed, refreshed, and renewed. Then I find myself energized to take on the rest of the day. These transcendent moments, like the faint fuzzies, take effort but are worth the effort.

If your tea journey parallels one of your hobbies, I would love to hear about it.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you linked to this! I want to see more!