Drink your tea slowly and reverently as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves–slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.Thich Nhat Hahn
Mornings on the trail I drink tea from a green plastic cup. It has warped gently, no longer possessing a perfectly circular rim from the fifty years it have been carried on countless treks into the backcountry, crushed under the weight of warm clothes, books, freeze dried food, bear canister, cook stove, and the other essentials of a life stuffed into a single backpack. I cradle it in my hands to warm them and take the first sip of the fragrant fluid. It is at that moment I am assured that all is right with the world, that the sun will come up over that eastern ridge line in a hour or so, and that in the meantime I have found warmth from the inside of a plastic cup.
The cup has weathered storms and waited out rain showers. A cup of tea while I sit in my tent, listening to the downpour and trying to keep my spirits from being soaked and sodden, always brings me back to my safe and warm place: a down sleeping bag, a thin piece of rip stop nylon between me and the hailstorm. I am warm and dry. I have a cup of tea, and I have a good book with me.
My husband has instructions to place that cup on my chest before they push my withered old body into the flames. I envision myself like Sam McGee, eyes glowing, a cup of tea and a good book, forever warm.
Why I should seek answers on a mountain trail now eludes me as I reflect on these long treks. The answers almost never come. Mostly what I learn is that the questions do not matter very much. What matters is placing one foot in front of the other, moving up the trail, listening to my breathing, the sound of the winter wren, a light rain falling overhead in the forest canopy, the reassurance that here at least is a place of refuge, where I am strong and sure of myself, where I can handle whatever comes my way. . .black bears, blisters, even aging and an aching back.