Tea and Oranges

I am a true child of the 70's, and I grew up listening to my mother's music: John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Joanie Mitchell, Peter Paul & Mary. These were the songs that were in the background on rainy or snowy days, accompanied by the hum of my mother's sewing machine, blended with the scent of her coffee, punctuated by her occaisional cursing when she had to rip a seam, or the dog interrupted her work.

Suzanne takes you down
to her place near the river
you can hear the boats go by
and you can spend the night beside her
and you know that she's half crazy
and that's why you want to be there
and she feeds you tea and oranges
that come all the way from China
and just when you mean to tell her
that you have no love to give her
then she gets you on her wavelength
and she lets the river answer
that you've always been her lover
and you want to travel with her
and you want to travel blind
and you know that she will trust you
for you've touched her perfect body
with your mind

Today at work I turned my office into a cavern, by leaving the overhead fluorescent lights turned off. It was raining on and off most of the day, unusual for Northern California at this time of year, and the moody grey light was soothing today.

Rainy days always inspire me, and today I decided that I could keep the vibe of inspiration going even while working on mundane things like submitting loans. So I turned my floor lamp on, left the blinds halfway down, enough to kill any glare but not so far that I couldn't read the paperwork on my desk. I had three cd's with me: Yo-Yo Ma's The Soul of Tango, Loreena McKennit's Book of Secrets and the Starbucks artist choice collection that was chosen by Yo-Yo Ma. It's this eclectic mix of opera, classical, blues, folk, and French ballads, and while these three cd's were all very different, somehow, rotating them throughout the day seemed to work for me.

and Jesus was a sailor
when he walked upon the water
and he spent a long time watching
from his lonely wooden tower
and when he knew for certain
only drowning men could see him
he said: “all men will be sailors
until the sea shall free them”
but he himself was broken
long before the sky would open
forsaken, almost human
he sank beneath his wisdom like a stone
and you want to travel with him
and you want to travel blind
and you think maybe you'll trust him
for he's touched your perfect body
with his mind

None of the cd's included the song “Suzanne” but I was drinking Wild Sweet Orange Tea this afternoon, and that song, part of the soundtrack of my childhood, wove itself over and around and through my thoughts.

I think it's the line in the first section, about tea and oranges, that sticks most in my mind. I don't know all the lyrics, but in spite of that I can hear the melody in my head, and somehow the dim light, the cool air, the raindrops – they all blend together and carry me backwards in time.

Once, when I was fourteen, I spent a late night wrapped in my favorite pajamas, my feet kicked up on the chair across from mine, the only light in the house the chandelier above my table. I vaguely recall that I was reading Nicholas and Alexandra, but I remember very vividly that my stepfather had presented us with a bag of the most incredible navel oranges, and as I sat there, reading while my parents slept in their room above me, I nibbled on oranges and sipped Earl Grey tea, purchased at Cost Plus.

now Suzanne takes your hand
and she leads you to the river
she is wearing rags and feathers
from Salvation Army counters
and the sun pours down like honey
on our lady of the harbour
and she shows you where to look
among the garbage and the flowers
there are heroes in the seaweed
there are children in the morning
they are leaning out for love
they will lean this way forever
while Suzanne holds the mirror
and you want to travel with her
and you want to travel blind
and you know that you can trust her
for she's touched your perfect body
with her mind

Tea and oranges and nostalgia were my companions all day, and when I got home, and looked out at the redwood that stands near the corner of our house, I was presented with a rainbow.

Life is beautiful.

“Suzanne” was written by Leonard Cohen.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Tea and Oranges by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.