Leaves of Tea

Dear Melissa,

Apologies for the tardiness of this letter. Imagine that it got lost at sea and suddenly washed up on the shores of Barceloneta, found its way into the pocket of a beach blanket salesman standing near that sculpture L’Estel Ferit (The Injured Star)fell out of his pocket and into the basket of a bicycle somewhere in El Born and dried out as its carrier wove through the narrow, cobbled streets toward the Palau de la Musica when the wind whisked it into the hood of a student on her way into the metro at Urquinaona. She takes the red line to Rocafort and as she emerged above ground, she bends over to tie her shoe, and you bump into her as you fumble for the keys to your apartment. The letter falls to your feet.

Or, as this technological world we live in suggests, you wait patiently for me to get my act together and type something. Here I am.

I want to write about tea and the Azores. I want to write about the first and only 40-degree (Fahrenheit) in a long while in Portland and how you could smell Earth again, how I’d forgotten the smell of land. I want to write about shared drinks with friends and a poem that stopped my heart and just how much I am loving Nick Hornby’s latest novel. I want to write with my eyes closed because I can’t quite kick a lingering headache; this is one of the advantages of typing over old fashioned script.

As you know, I write my grandmother a postcard every Thursday. It started because I used to call her on Thursdays but as her hearing got worse our conversations got shorter and more difficult. It also was a nice challenge for me here in Portland to find quirky postcards and dash off a quick poem-like note to her. And finally, it was a paralleled effort of being a larger part of her life, of knowing she would never write back and somehow loving this idea. When I moved to Barcelona and started to travel more, it provided a purpose to those last few minutes of a trip, right before you have to find whatever mode of transportation it is that will bring you home and back to reality. The beauty and grit of travel could linger just a little bit longer in the sending of a note across the ocean.

I feel the same way about these letters, writing to you, reading your responses. There is little not to love about the ease with which we can glimpse into each other’s worlds, through words and photos, and the extraordinary speed with which we can communicate, so many miles away. (Unless, of course, one of us gets caught up with jet lag and work and migraines and the beauty of the snow and fails to write back.)

And yet. I can’t help but think of that beautiful Catalan library you visited filled with unique treasures you can touch. I think of Jane Austen writing crisscross to her sister. The feud and friendship of Poe and Dickens that had a lot to do with mutual admiration and something of the time it took for Dickens’ next installment to arrive across an ocean as Poe penned a prediction and review Stateside. I don’t flatter ourselves that we are Austen or Poe or Dickens, but I do wonder about what will be read of personal communication of writers 300 years from now. Will some young, aspiring digital mavens look at WordPress blogs with the same quaint admiration as I do upon hand-carried cursive script? Will anyone still look at the tea leaves in the bottom of their cup and read their own fortune?

Since I do have technology at my fingertips, here are some photos of the Azores that I wanted to share with you. I brought back as much tea as my 8.8 kg limited suitcase could fit.


The first tea farm I’ve ever visited. The best view.


Tea fields and the Atlantic.


Leaf sorters at Chá Gorreana.


Another tea farm. Were these islands made for me?




View from an empty room at an abandoned hotel we explored.


Graffiti in abandoned hotel.


Fog rolling in on abandoned hotel.


Geothermal bathing pool at Terra Nostra botanical gardens.


Field of freesia and fern tree.

Miss you.