Tea in the Forest

IMG_3128I recently commented to my husband that we hadn’t gone camping in a long time – we don’t have camping gear anymore so getting back into it would be a commitment. He said he saw no need for such a trip because “I live in the forest already, and I can ‘camp’ right in my backyard with all the comforts of home”. I thought about this later and realized he was right, and that I could experience one of my favourite camping routines right here at home.

Every morning I indulge in a pot of tea. It is pretty much my favourite part of the day. I love the routine of preparing the tea, pouring mug after fresh mug of the fragrant blend (Cream of Earl Grey), and the sweet, milky flavour. The taste is a bridge that connects me to my childhood and our frequent visits with my English grandparents, who always served “milky tea”.

There is something about tea in the morning when camping that I particularly enjoy – sitting in a camping chair, listening to the birds, tasting the fresh summer air, and admiring the beautiful forest (growing up in the lower mainland of British Columbia, most of my camping experiences were in forested parks). I realized after talking to my husband that I could easily re-create that experience right here at home. And so it was that I first ventured out with my tea tray to sit on what-will-become our patio and enjoy the summer morning.

I loved it.

tanagerThis morning was a perfect example – after a wonderful 40-minute yoga session I prepared my tea and brought it out to the patio. The weather began with high overcast clouds, warm temperatures, and a lovely soft breeze. As I sat sipping my tea, I could hear the calls of the many birds who visit our neighbourhood. That prompted me to bring out my binoculars, and I returned just in time to see a beautiful western tanager. If you didn’t know these bright and colourful birds were native to our region, you’d think someone had lost their small parrot!

I also saw a doe and her two fawns wander out of the trees and head across the clearing to the forest bordering the western edge of our property. Suddenly, I heard a crashing sound through the undergrowth. At first, it was not the rhythmic crashing of a deer – deer run by taking big leaps, and the rhythm of that sound is unmistakable – but something else rushing through the undergrowth. Then I heard the deer fleeing. Next, something raced through some low-lying shrubbery on the edge of the trees, and my first thought was that it might be a cougar hunting one of the fawns. Eventually the sounds moved to the north and grew more silent. I can’t be sure of what I saw (and mostly heard) but it was an exciting example of the life all around us.

We haven’t done much landscaping since the house was completed last fall,IMG_3106 other than having the ground raked for rocks and planting some grass seed. The new lawn is still somewhat patchy, and I’ve let the distal section remain covered in whatever weeds take root there. Not being much of a gardener, perhaps I don’t have the same hatred of weeds that others may. And I know the weeds serve a purpose. Newly disturbed soil, especially rocky soil like ours, brings plants with deep taproots that bring nutrients up from below and begin the process of soil-building . Eventually the soil will become too rich for them, and a new cohort of species will take over. Whatever is flowering right now is attracting tons of butterflies, which provided me with some great viewing while I sipped my tea.

 

IMG_3104The rest of the pot of tea was consumed with no more drama other than our cat Wessex coming over for pats and snuggles. I saw a couple of large ravens, a rabbit, heard woodpeckers and spotted towhees, and just generally sat contemplating how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place. I remembered living in the suburbs before we moved here, dreaming of a view without neighbours’ houses packed in all around us. It feels amazing to have finally realized a dream that was over 10 years in the making. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend time on a Sunday morning than to just be present in the moment, connect with nature, and practice gratitude.

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