Tuesday Tea – Black Knight

Don’t you love discovering treasures in unexpected places? I know I do, and that’s exactly what happened to me while walking around a local flea market one day.

Probably second only to books, when I hear the word tea, my ears instantly perk up. So, when I heard the owner of Rusted Leaf Tea Company talking about the loose-leaf blends he creates, I made a beeline for his table.

Allow me to paint a picture for you. Imagine a husky, bearded gentleman wearing what I believe was a Celtic-patterned t-shirt, sporting longish hair, and displaying a passion for tea that lit up his face. I try not to stereotype people, but I must admit, he wasn’t what I expected in a tea seller. And I feel just terrible that I didn’t get his name, so I’ll blame it on my own enthusiasm.

My excitement heightened as he described the ingredients in his proprietary blends and, thrill of thrills, allowed me to enjoy their aroma. He had a little tin with a clear top for each tea so one could see the mixtures and inhale the scent of each delicious concoction. It was difficult to decide, but I settled on Black Knight, and I’ll admit it was in part because the name is just so cool.

Black tea, raspberry leaf, and tarragon make up the ingredients, and in the bag, they smell sweet, fresh, and mildly minty. This last detail is from the tarragon which I love as a seasoning in beef dishes but came to adore in my hot tea. I learned a long time ago that mint teas are not my thing, but tarragon is obviously mint’s close cousin with a sweeter, less bitter personality. I was in love with the flavor that didn’t overpower but left my palate with that cool, minty sensation. Also, Black Knight didn’t require any sweetener or cream, but if you try it that way, let me know how it worked for you.

Make sure your water is quite hot for brewing this beauty. One teaspoon of the blend is perfect for a twelve-ounce serving. I found a four-minute steep with an additional minute to swirl my tea ball around the cup delivers a bright, bracing beverage that is perfect any time of the day. The tea is deep mahogany in color and tapers to a lovely green/gold near the edges. The aroma when brewed is that of a freshly mown field with stacks of moist grasses drying in the sun.

Prior to using, a quick fluffing with a fork will keep the settled ingredients well blended in the bag. I suspect Black Knight would make a delicious s iced tea, so if you try it, let me know in the comments how you enjoyed it.

Rusted Leaf Tea Company strikes me as a fledgling company since they are on social media but, as of this posting, do not have a website. Still, Rusted Leaf has much to offer, and I wish the company well and encourage you to seek them out.

Is #TBT Still a Thing?

I usually come late to a trend because I’m off doing my own thing. It’s not because I’m an amazing trailblazer but more because I’m in my own little world.

Still, #TBT crept into my peripheral social media vision, and while it was cute at first, I soon found the trend annoying. I played along a few times when tagged in various games, but I rarely finished.

So here we are, eleven years after the first use of #ThrowbackThursday according to Time, and I still don’t participate in the trend. Until now when I started thinking how can we use #TBT for something worthwhile?

Rather than share a picture of me from kindergarten with my barrettes sliding down my hair and what my husband refers to as my shifty smile, I decided to dig up some of my past writing. That’s what I do, so why not reveal a picture of myself through my chosen art form? So many authors have claimed that they don’t write themselves into their work, but that’s simply not true. We’re in there, somewhere, somehow.

My first goal is to catch the interest of Facebook friends by reposting some of my initial pieces. I won’t share all of them because a few are cringeworthy. Still, one can find them, which is my second goal of encouraging readers to poke around at HL Gibson, Author, especially under the Read & Relax heading where you’ll locate my short stories and flash fiction. If you want to find the dirt, you’re going to have to dig.

My third and most important goal is to draw out other writers. We need to build the writing community, so let everyone know where you can be found. The fourth goal in this process is to give permission to those reading my work to leave feedback. Dear Reader, you never truly needed that permission in the first place because if my writing is out there, it’s understood that feedback is desired, required even. It’s what writers live in fear of and crave at the same time.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a writer yourself, but since you do have an opinion, please express it. Be kind and constructive, refrain from insult.

Some in my writing community will no doubt think I’ve gone mental and/or opened a horrible can of worms with my offer. One writing friend is fond of saying, “Let the blood-letting begin.” While I find his misapplied comment humorous, I don’t believe that’s going to happen, and it certainly isn’t necessary. Still, it’s funny when he exposes his wrist at writing group.

Communication is the ultimate goal here. Let’s have a chat in our 21st century coffee house that is social media. Leave your feedback in the comments section and let’s have a conversation.

The Basil and Josephine Stories

I’m not usually a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I’ve admitted I have a love/hate relationship with him, which meant I loved to hate him. I felt this way because I did not believe Fitzgerald deserved the acclaim he received, and still receives, for repeatedly producing the same work.

You may read my opinion of the author and his writings here: Under the Influence; Dear Scott, Sincerely, HL; and F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Short Stories.

Recently, I read The Basil and Josephine Stories, a compilation of Fitzgerald’s two previously published series from The Saturday Evening Post, and I honestly enjoyed them. I think they are some of his best writings.

Fitzgerald grabbed my interest by digging deep into the compost pile of this own youth. He transferred specific details and events to fashion Basil’s stories. While I formerly complained that he put too much of himself into his writing, the Basil stories were fresh in that they read like an attempt at self-analyzation, which I found intriguing.

I believe a mature perspective enabled the author to write about the humiliating details while at the same time stepping back and processing them. In doing so, the reader was treated to Basil’s growth and maturity, whereas in Fitzgerald’s own life, one does not see such amazing growth as experienced by his character.

One detail in Basil’s life that shocked me was the absence of his father, who had died in an unspecified manner. I recall reading that Fitzgerald was ashamed of his own father’s lack of success, and I wondered if removing Basil’s father from the stories was a subconscious method of dealing with this shame.

Now, factor in Josephine, a girl who repeatedly brought to mind “Charm is deceitful and beauty fades . . .” She is so shallow and self-absorbed that she never learns or grows throughout her stories until “Emotional Bankruptcy” wherein she is just becoming self-aware. There is more of Fitzgerald written into the character of Josephine than was initially apparent, maybe more than he intended, and she represents a warning of what not to become. Again, look at the author’s own life for evidence.

And she is most definitely a picture of the great lost love of his life, Ginevra King.

My conclusion is that Fitzgerald was crafting his version of the perfect ending to his relationship with Ginevra, a what-could-have-been scenario. I believe this because the author intended for Basil and Josephine to meet when he combined the series at some point.

I know that a book of Basil’s tales was proposed (and discarded for the flimsy reason of not wanting the story to detract from Fitzgerald’s more serious writing, i.e., his novels, in any way) but I’m not sure if the intended meeting between Basil and Josephine was supposed to happen in said book.

Whether as a novel or continuation of the series, I wonder if Fitzgerald began to fear the transparency of the story and/or accept that he could never make it right. The author depended on money earned from the stories to support his and Zelda’s lavish lifestyle between novels. Could the beautiful, troubled Zelda have seen what her wayward husband was attempting to accomplish thus forcing Fitzgerald to abandon the project?

Further, would Fitzgerald have had Basil snub Josephine, a literary comeuppance for Ginevra King, or would he have written a happily-ever-after ending bringing the pair together in a way that would show Ginevra, her father, the rich, and the world in general that a middleclass boy could marry a rich girl and make all her dreams come true? Would love have conquered riches?

We’ll never know, and while I would have liked to read that ending, all I’m left with is speculation. Still, I’m leaning more toward a comeuppance for Ginevra/Josephine because Basil/F. Scott was in the process of outgrowing her. Then again, Fitzgerald’s own lifelong pursuit of wealth and fame may have spelled doom for Basil and Josephine if they, as a couple, failed to overcome their worldly desires as Fitzgerald and Zelda did. Then there is the possibility that Basil would have led Josephine to a higher understanding of true happiness beyond money and reputation.

The whole ball of questions sound like something that would be a fabulous project for a writer of fan fiction, don’t you think?

I’m still itching to vent my usual complaints against Fitzgerald, but I’ll finish by saying that I felt more hope for him after reading The Basil and Josephine Stories. It’s obvious that he was better when writing short stories that built upon certain themes with the intention of having the characters intersect at some point. Perhaps I would like his novels better if he had written them as a collection of short stories. It certainly would have assisted with his inability to focus on longer works because of all he had going on in life.

Unfortunately, my hope for F. Scott Fitzgerald comes too late for an author who showed great potential and squandered much of it.

What’s Going On?

I’ve read a lot of encouraging articles and essays on how to handle bad situations in our lives, and the first thing that always comes through is how calm and enlightened the author was. What I’ve had to remind myself after reading such a piece was that, mostly likely, when the author wrote, it was from a place of healing resulting in an after-the-fact relaying of the tale.

If you forget this while reading what should be encouraging words, you may come away believing the writer was unsympathetic, unempathetic, and a real know-it-all busybody who never again suffered the way you did or are. That simply isn’t true.

Just because someone overcame a trial and/or testing in his or her life and was able to share it doesn’t mean he or she won’t be down again. In fact, once a person overcomes, there is often barely a moment to catch one’s breath before another attack comes. But this is not the crisis we may believe it is.

Keep in mind that a way through has been made for us. Yes, a way through, not out. The text I’m referencing is often poorly translated to the detriment of many. Not only has the trial or testing been brought to you, or you to it, but it is for your betterment that you’re going through it.

I know that sometimes bad things happen that are simply an evil event, but even then, you’ll not be left without assistance, if you truly want it.

But let’s return to where you may be now or have been in the past. Ask yourself, “What am I learning/did I learn?” If nothing, well, expect to repeat the lesson until you succeed. But if you did learn something, don’t keep it to yourself. From that place of healing, and maybe even from a place of hurting if you’re still going through it, you can move forward by using it to help others.

It sounds so simple when written here, but how many times have we allowed our shame to silence us or believed a negative event was for us alone because we were embarrassed or didn’t want to burden anyone with it? Stop doing that.

While we remember our moments of weakness, we do not allow them to define us. This is done by deep self-examination that should result in a truthful admission of wanting to grow out of and beyond the bad moments in our lives. But again, you must want this.

Society today would have you wallow in your misery at the least and parade your dysfunction at the worst. This is not Adonai’s plan for you. You are better than that, so do not allow yourself to become less than you have to ability to be. You were created for greatness.

Sounds so easy, right? Just jump up, act as if nothing is wrong, plaster on a smile, and whistle a happy tune!

Reality is more often open your eyes, take a deep slow breath, let the tears flow as you put your feet on the ground, and push off into another day. One step at a time. But do it.

Imagine being so unhappy with your surroundings that you decide to take a vacation. You stand up, take one step off your porch, and become even more disgusted, maybe even discouraged and/or enraged, that after taking a single step you didn’t arrive at the beach, the mountains, or wherever would make you feel good again.

Ridiculous, right? And yet, that’s exactly what so many people do in their walk of life when things go wrong. “I tried, and it didn’t work,” they complain to those encouraging them.

How about taking that step toward packing (planning), and getting in your car (moving), and driving to your ideal destination with a few rest stops along the way? Please see that life itself if a process and so isn’t the path to healing.

And yes, it’s going hurt. Consider the beneficial invasiveness that is hip surgery. I watched my own dear mother, who never cried in agony pre-surgery, experience emotional and physical pain post-surgery because healing hurts. She wasn’t permitted to sit until the aching stopped or the inflammation disappeared. She had to move from day one and attend therapy before she could fully wrap her head around what had occurred.

As cruel as it may sound, this is exactly how Adonai works in our lives, especially when something is horribly wrong within. He’ll remove it, and you’re going to hurt during the healing. Again, as hard as it is, it’s for your benefit and quite possibly someone else’s, too.

Consider my experience with thyroid cancer. I would never wish that on anyone but is it only through my experience that I was able to counsel two other people with truth about what they were going through. This is why we must come together as a community. I may have the words you need to hear, and you may have the answer I’ve been looking for.

Do not allow the evil, bad, wrong things in your life to galvanize you against revealing what is occurring to you. Do not be afraid or ashamed. Reach out to those who are part of your community. Seek assistance from wise, older people. Get up and fight. And when you cannot even fight, at least stand until you are able to pick up your sword, take a forward step, and re-engage in the battle. I promise, you will not be left alone or defenseless in your misery.

This post comes to you after almost a week of wrestling with something I still cannot define. But since I’m determined to not let it sidetrack me, I’ve turned it into an article, thus using what was meant for evil to be used for good.

If you’re able, please share a time when you overcame. You never know who may need to hear exactly what you have to say.

If you have comments or questions regarding my post, the comments section is open to you, too. Let’s have a conversation.

Percival’s Planet

One of the reasons why I never watched the movie Titanic was because no amount of SPOILER ALERT was going to keep me from knowing the end of the story going in. The ship sank. The same was true for a book I recently read called Percival’s Planet, an historical fiction accounting of the discovery of Pluto. I had a good idea how the novel was going to end. Still, I was on an astronomical high from The Comet Seekers, so I thought I’d give Percival’s Planet a whirl.

Most reports I have read indicate that the Titanic sank in about two hours, which is a good length for a movie except that probably not that much occurred onboard that would make a good story. For this reason, pre-iceberg and post-iceberg filler was created to take up some time until the ship sank.

The same was true for Percival’s Planet. The process by which Pluto was discovered was so painfully boring that the author, Michael Byers, would not have much of a story if that was all he wrote about. And even after it was discovered, there was some skepticism as to whether or not what was found was indeed the elusive Planet X.

So, the reader was treated to more on Kansas farm boy, Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto. However, in Byers’s hands, Clyde’s story was about as exciting as watching grain being threshed. I did feel for him when a sudden hailstorm took out the crop that was supposed to pay for college, and he showed incredible perseverance producing handmade lenses until they were perfect. But again, Pluto and Clyde alone were not enough to carry this tale.

Vesto Slipher, the Lowells, and a few other real people were sprinkled in to help ground the story. There was a technical edge that was interesting without being too tedious even if one has not studied the math and science required for space exploration. The era during which the novel took place, 1928 to 1930, lent some curious appeal as far as social allowances, customs, clothing, and the looming Great Depression.

But it still was not enough to make this the type of story one can hardly wait to return to. It took me three weeks to plow through it, and there were days when I left it untouched. Still, the writing was not horrible, and I’m no quitter. There were some well-turned phrases, but nothing that leapt off the page begging to be read.

Not even the washed-up boxer, Teddy, going through a painful divorce, who was in love with his beautiful secretary, Mary, who was slowly going mad, helped. Nor did the secretary’s older, gay brother, Hollis, who struggled to maintain his relationship with his younger, extremely rich partner. Not even Dick and Florrie, more megarich and brilliant people involved with work at Lowell Observatory, made for interesting reading. And then there was the poor sap, Alan, an astronomer, who named a comet after Florrie before he realized she had run away to marry Dick.

Let’s not forget Felix, the failure-to-please-daddy heir, who decided he wanted to be an amateur paleontologist, and his mother, whose name I’ve honestly forgotten in the three days since I finished the book. Their relationship was awkward, and how they connected with those already mentioned was clunky at best, superfluous at worst.

Alan married Mary; Clyde had a crush on her; Mary was hospitalized after attacking Alan; Hollis disappeared; I truly wished Dick, Florrie, Felix, and his Mama would, too; Teddy became Mary’s champion; Pluto was found but not in a satisfying, triumphant, end-of-the-book way; peripheral characters charmed and annoyed on cue; and Byers wrapped up stories of fictional characters with whom I forged no connection or caring. The narrative moved at the pace of a comet viewed with the naked eye.

What we had here, folks, was a Great Plains soap opera that read like grit blown in from the Dust Bowl to lodge in the corners of one’s mind, waiting to be swept out by the next interesting book.

I suspect Michael Byers attempted to recreate the thrill of discovering a new planet, which was no small thing. Unfortunately, when the novel was published in 2010, moon landings were and still are studied as history, the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, and it had been twenty years since the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, and twelve years for the first piece of the International Space Station.

Perhaps it’s a shame that we no longer look to the stars with as much interest as we once did. God knows we are barely able to take care of things on Earth let alone what we would do if we ever achieved colonization somewhere in space. Still, what could have been a great story, even to someone like me who doesn’t follow astronomy closely, ended up fizzling out faster than a shooting star.

In the end, I’m glad Clyde Tombaugh never knew Pluto was demoted from being a planet.

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