Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Walk Along the River

There are still splashes of red amidst the slow dunning of the world. Bright red berries dangle from leafless limbs and tantalize with a promise of wintry bounty. Colors more muted -soft yellows, pale greens, blanched reds- line the river, the weeping willows overhead and their fallen leaves on the grass.

E and I walked on a sea of these finely-shaped fronds, a thin cushion over damp grass, mushy from a recent rainfall. A river walkway on the other side of town, one not in our repertory of weekend walks. But over last weekend, we decided to veer from habit, exchanging one riparian walkway -one on our side of town- for another.

Our walks on well-known paths are sheathed in the warm mantle of familiarity. The pleasure of predictable sensations as I see that particular tree rustle its few leaves; the anticipation I feel emerging from the dimness of a culvert, then climbing a path that opens onto a magnificent vista of a snaking river.

New vistas unfolded themselves to me over the weekend. A glimpse of a passenger train on its way to the Pacific Northwest, its attendant chug-chug reverberating across fields and river.

We emerged from the valley of the river onto the winding streets of a small town, peering into its shops, many closed as it was Sunday. I had a cup of chai at the Starbucks (a shameful admission, I know) on a hilltop and watched the sun set through the window.

At home, I brewed a new green tea given to me by my friend and colleague, L. He brought it back from the mountainous town of Da Lat on his recent trip to Vietnam. He had seen tea plantations abut coffee plantations in this area, known for its proficiency in cultivating both.
The dry leaves of the tea were ridged with veins of black and green. Coiled loosely, they stretched out to their full length as the tea brewed. Leaves with tattered edges floated in clumps.
I poured the tea into our cups and tasted its mild vegetal flavor. No undercurrents of subtle notes lurked beneath it. The tea tasted familiar to me, and I felt something akin to recognition. A thimbleful of green tea between bites of banh cuon (a Vietnamese dish of savory rice crepes) at a Saigon diner while sandwiched between uncles and parents -this memory thrusting me back to childhood and its sensations.
Now, E and I finished our tea as we shared the last piece of a sweet potato pie.

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