Hearts at Work

A Column by James Tipton

“The Tea Horse Road”

 

One of the magazines I like a lot is the Buddhist magazine, Shambhala Sun. In the current issue (July) is a book review that combines two other things I like a lot: tea and horses.

The just published book, by Michael Freeman and Selena Ahmed, is Tea Horse Road: China’s Ancient Trade Root to Tibet. In the review I discover that “In the seventh century, Tibetans developed a taste for tea and it quickly became a staple in their meaty diet.” China, “struggling to fend off the Mongols—found itself coveting sturdy warhorses.”

Tibet had horses and China had tea. And so, the Tea Horse Road came into being, “one of the most important trade routes of the ancient world.”

I have always had a deep fondness for both horses and tea. My most recent book is even titled All the Horses of Heaven, I used to own a horse, I used to ride a lot, trail on foot wild horses, and still sometimes in sleep a herd of horses will race through a rather ordinary dream.

I remember a rainy afternoon in Mohican State Forest in north-central Ohio, sitting around a fire with my old buddy Lorin Swinehart, sipping lapsang souchong tea, whose smoky pleasures mingled with both the woods and our conversation. And I remember living on a high mesa in western Colorado, opening a package I had just picked up at the general store, sent to me by another writer, a dear Chilean woman, which contained boxes of “Tea with Mangos and Marigolds,” and I remember two years later sharing a pot of that tea with her in Books Passage, a terrific bookstore in Corte Madera near San Francisco.

I do not own a coffee maker.

In Colorado, where I lived longer than anywhere else, who is not familiar with the Boulder company, Celestial Seasonings, and teas like Lemon Zinger, Sleepytime, Morning Thunder, and Goji Berry Pomegranate Green Tea?

But, back to the Tea Horse Road. So often our lives are enhanced by two apparently unconnected things brought together. He likes to fish. She likes to knit. He wears the knitted hat she made; she eats the fish he caught.

Of course most romantic relationships begin with two very different things—a man….and a woman. He likes a woman’s body; she likes a man’s body. The bed they sleep in we might name the Man Woman Road.

He likes to rise early; she likes to rise late. She has hot tea (coffee if you insist) waiting for her when she rises; he has a contented wife, still in her peignoir, still a bit sleepy, sitting across from him, smiling, and still looking sexy to him after all these years.

While thinking about a column for this August issue, how charmed I was reading that short review of The Tea Horse Road.

My editor, Alejandro Grattan, liked the idea of the tea horse road so much he wants to turn it into a screenplay, “The Tea Horse of the August Moon,” and maybe set it on Okinawa shortly after World War II, where the locals, who make a rather potent local tea, want to buy a horse but have no money, and the American soldiers stationed there have a horse but are looking for a potent local tea….


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