A Winter Cup of Tea

?????????? Story and Photo by Paula Kaiman

From a Journal Entry, February 20, 2012:

My afternoon walk was sunny, but very cold. I'd ventured outside to meet the new lamb, born yesterday in a neighboring barn, surrounded by an evergreen wood. His prancing little being filled my winter heart with welcome warmth. How small of form yet grand of spirit he was, joyfully nursing at the full moon roundness of his mother!

En route home, the wildlife I encountered was equally delightful. Three pine siskins sipped water from a gurgling break in the icy roadside ditch. A pair of downy woodpeckers drummed out a staccato feast from the jagged top of a tree. I stopped to admire a robin, gorging on berries of bittersweet as if to further tint her breast. A red squirrel darted past, with a wrinkled rugosa rosehip clenched firm within his teeth.

Once inside, I decided to imbibe through the simpler's art of tea. Having set the kettle to boil, I prepared my first infusion of wild Moonwort* (Artemisia californica, commonly known as California Sagebrush), received from a west coast friend. I'd been wanting to try it for more than a month; it seemed the time had come. The age-old alchemy of hot water and dry leaf immediately took on an enchanting shade of citron green. Gazing into the cup, I was startled---and somewhat amused---by the thought that came to mind: "It looks like a miniature hot spring, steaming in an evergreen wood!"

The first taste was powerful. Bitter and astringent. I felt my belly warm. Most of the needle-like leaves had settled to the bottom in the delicate form of a heart-shaped wreath. A few more floated on top. I could barely believe my eyes. Peering into the porcelain vessel seemed to transport me to another world. And then I slipped into a dream...

I'm bathing in the pool of Artemis---a small, round hot spring in a circular clearing, nestled in an evergreen wood. The trees are tall and slender; the pool---warm, clear and deep. The water is a golden-green tint. The full moon shines so bright, that I can see quite clearly in the night. Little silver song birds and tree squirrels, filled with inner light, flit among the branches. They're made of wisps of moonlight...the silver fae of Artemis.

I hear a tiny, tinkling chatter, accompanied by bell-like giggles. They think me a tame, foreign creature, burdened with human concerns. In their presence I feel large, heavy, awkward....slow, dull, tense. There's a sticky, soiled energy about me. Raising my arms overhead, I submerge in the pool's green depths to wash myself sparkling clean. As I glide back up, dancing ripples of moonlight gleam in the lemon-lime water above---the water of life in which I float.

Breaking the pool's silver surface, I supplicate the shining one to fill me with her light. The white orb takes on the glowing face of a beautiful mother---forever wise, forever young. She smiles kindly down. Light rays cascade into long silver locks, while graceful arms reach out to embrace me, roundly bestowing love. I emerge from the pool, a child again---fae-footed, light-hearted, dancing in a body of light. Born anew, a daughter of the moon...winsome, wild and free!

The sterling woodland fades away... I return to the dream of me. Back to my living room armchair, cradling a winter cup of lamb-blessed, Moonwort tea.

*Author's Note:

Common names for various species in the large, diverse Artemisia genus include Mugwort, Wormwood and Sagebrush. My western friend fondly refers to her local Sagebrush as "Moonwort." In my eastern clime, Atemisia vulgaris or Common Mugwort, sometimes called "the mother of all herbs," grows along the roadsides. Artemisia has long been employed for a number of healing purposes. The herb is also believed to promote vivid dreaming and dream recall, as well as astral projection.

Revered for their silvery foliage, artemisias are traditionally associated with Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Moon---patroness of all things wild and free---lover of nymphs, muse of song and dance, ruler of tides, guardian of women, protector of travelers and small children. Known by many names in the ancient world, her influence was complex and widespread. To this day, she continues---through her botanical namesakes---to create movement and healing, to cleanse, protect, and shine her wild light.