Sunday, April 21, 2013

Three times Three

      I had forgotten, and have now almost again forgotten, how the landscape surrounding the Selway River seems always to be moving.   Not because the ever-present spring rain is wearing things down before your eyes or because the wind moves the shrubs around.  But because you are always staring at the river, and when you look up from the rapids, the hills and trees swirl for a second or two.

      Escape from the water is difficult while walking or sleeping on the Selway.  The water roars over boulders near the camps.  The river has cut down deep into its canyon and the few trails that depart from the main path along the river’s edge climb straight up the unforgiving ridges.  A walk in this place is about the river and, for us, it is also about flowers and buds and other sodden forms of life that have not yet emerged in our neck of the woods.  The elevation on the Selway is 1500 + feet lower than Missoula.

      A trip there is also, for us, about not doing much.  Wandering around agape over the fresh plants, staring at the water, drinking tea. 

     The trillium was this trip’s totem.  A favorite of mine from the plant world -with a common name to match its splendor:  Wake robin.  That’s what they called it in Missouri when I was a kid.   The name is spring itself.

Three leaves, three sepals, three petals.

     I had my third, and hopefully final, close encounter with a rattlesnake.  It may have been mourning its relative who lay belly-up and fly-kissed farther down the slope.  I walked within a foot or two of the sluggish, living snake without noticing at all- not until my wife pointed it out with her walking stick.  It did not warn me in any way, and it was not pleased with my presence.   Had it been warmer, I don’t think the trip would have ended well.

      I also broke my third travel gaiwan set from Yunnan Sourcing.  These things are cute as hell and they work great when they are not in pieces.   I'm the one who drags them around in the rocks.  The gaiwan itself survived as well as the cups.  Not so the cha hai.  Who needs them anyway.  It's camping, right?

     Drinking tea was very fine.  We did a lot of it.  So much so that we had to ration our camp stove fuel the last day.  The combination of a couple of really delicious teas from Stephane, the fabulous setting, good water from seeps and springs and the relative lack of distractions made for some of the most enjoyable tea drinking I've done in a long time.  The trip really brought me back to the plant and was a reminder that you don't need elaborate or expensive equipment to brew a great cup.  Good tea, good water, a cheap porcelain cup or two, a bit of breathing room for thoughts, impressions and sensations.  The world is thorny and there is no escape, but tea can be a kind of refuge.  

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