The Eccentric Me
First there is the matter of tea. I love tea. My wife and I at last count had over forty canisters, small green metal boxes each capable of holding approximately 100 grams of leaves and other ingredients. Some are black teas from China, Africa, and India. Of course there is wonderful chai and rooibos teas from everywhere. There is mint tea—wonderful hot or iced. Fruit teas make wonderful iced beverages. And on hand I keep a few condiments to enhance my drinks—dried orange and lemon peel, lavender, and honeys, yes there are varieties of honey to be considered. To brew a good cup, I use individual bags into which I spoon the leaves and such condiments as may be desired; then I add hot water from my Japanese-made water heater, which keeps a supply at 208 degrees Fahrenheit—perfect for tea or coffee.
Given my tea obsession, it should not surprise that I have a dedicated tea mug. Bought in Sedona, thick walled, tan with a quail in relief: this is my tea mug, and nobody else is to use it. Thankfully my wife, who might otherwise tweak me by ignoring such personalization, finds it too heavy for her use. Otherwise, I think she might use it to soak dentures or otherwise drive me to distraction. She does, and I suppose appropriately so, decree that on certain occasions when we are having others to dinner or for tea that I use a more formal tea cup; some compromises must be made for the sake of marital felicity.
Since I also love coffee, I have a coffee mug as well. This found in a reservation store, also heavy, blue, and decorated with baying coyote and saguaro. Every morning I heat milk in it, then drip coffee through a gold, individual filter, to make a delicious day’s first cup.
The coffee I use is also something of a fetish. I get it from Tucson. It is now available nearby, at a Whole Foods. I will continue to either ride to Tucson or to have the nice people ship it directly to my door. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Ordinarily, I don’t even think about the strange contradiction of one type of coffee and all those tins of tea. However as inconsistent as that ratio might seem, both tea and coffee share my willingness to get such treats from great distance. Tea arrives by U.P.S. and another tin is filled. Of course I could just shop locally. Heck, I can even get halfway decent beans and leafs at one of the nearby groceries. But what would be the eccentricity in that?
I tell myself that having such things shipped to me is not wasteful because they give me pleasure. I know that I could use that extra money to buy supplies for a local food bank, that I could be donating to Heifer International or one of the other charities that help the hungry of the world. But such things are my bit of oil and I will not deny myself.
I do not deny myself the soap I love either. For some reason I have a soap eccentricity as well. I have my soap sent from North Carolina, a small company in the mountains that I discovered years ago when I was taking a writing workshop. The soap is good, but then I have seldom found bad soap. I prefer the goats’ milk variations, but I order a wide range of bars each time. After all, it would make no sense to limit each order to only a couple of bars. Tightly wrapped in plastic, the clean odor of the soap still permeates the chest in which I keep my standby sundries, a dozen toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, extra eyeglass wipes: all the things that one needs to know are available on hand.
When the population of soap bars dwindles, I order more. Four is the minimum acceptable number. When I die, I expect that those who must deal with my demise will want clean hands. They are more than welcome to those fragrant chunks of hygiene.
There is, however, one facet of my soap behavior that I must stress. I do not waste soap. I do not throw the last sliver away. Every bar is used until it literally disappears in lather. Obviously, given the way I obtain it and my tea and coffee, this is not about the costs. If I wanted to save money, I’d be buying brand named bars from the local grocery. No, it is something else.
Some years ago I read an article about how little soap is available in Africa, about how workers in hotels were taking home partially used bars of soap for their families. That resonated in my heart. I cannot give them the soap they need, but I can at least respect the value of what in our country seems such a small commodity.
Too often we forget. We take for granted such great pleasures as tea, coffee, and even soap. Life is precious and we its pleasures are to be celebrated and appreciated. So I shall make myself a cup of tea, perhaps Chinese Palace today, and think about how fortunate I am and how wonderful it is to be eccentric.