Gentle Reader, today’s post nearly didn’t go up at all. I’m writing it on a self-imposed deadline; if the editing is even worse than usual, please forgive me. I am being pulled in a thousand directions, with so many jobs, gigs, and responsibilities, and at the same time trying to freelance enough to cover my expenses, and further promote my poetry, and submit articles to contests, magazines and websites; in short, I am dancing the frantic tarantella that all struggling writers must dance. I am exhausting myself, and stressing myself, and while I am loving every moment of it, I have gotten a little behind on content for you, my beloved Gentle Reader.
It is at times like these that I fondly remember the Enchanted Tea Garden. I first discovered it when I was sixteen; Mr. C.W.L. Darling, Miss Ward, and I had successfully completed our A.P. Biology exam, and to celebrate, enjoyed a half-holiday exploring Sixth Avenue, in Tacoma. We had just encountered a woman called Gypsy Lily*; a mad esoteric multicultural gem who operated her business at a lost by taken pity on strays. She gave me my first deck of Tarot cards – the same cards I use today, as it happens. As we left the colorful character, we saw, in the distance, a colorful Craftsman house.
We approached excitedly, seeing the sign that stood in the yard, proclaiming it to be a tea house. We stopped here for refreshment, and fell in love. I wish that I could scrounge a photo of the actual garden in the back for you, Reader; stone and moss pathways lead between cast-iron bistro sets, just rusty enough to plausibly be antiques from New Orléans. There is statuary all around, flowers, hedges, and ponds run riot in all directions. There were a profusion of glittering glass wind chimes and gazing balls, catching and refracting light. It was, indeed, enchanted; we sat, and took tea.
After that, it became our hangout; in general, there would sometimes be a small group of friends, but in specific, Mr. Darling and I would go there whenever we needed gossip, comfort, or tea and sympathy. For years, though he and I would drift apart in our lives many times, we would still occasionally reconnect over one of the oak tables inside, the clink of china masking quiet tears.
While I was at college, I usually had a six-hour gap between classes. While other students were surely both more productive and more delinquent in turns, I would go to that unassuming fenced-in paradise, and over cup after cup of their white persian melon tea, would study the History of Britain. Technically, it was for class, but I was indulging in pure pleasure, in the springtime air. The redheaded waitress and I grew quite close over those months; I would come in every day, and I was probably the only regular customer at that point in time under fifty years of age. She was the proprietress’ niece, and a student as well; she would bring her books to my table and we would take notes together. Sometimes we would walk to the antique shop next door; it was run by another aunt of hers.
One afternoon, she told me that her aunt would have to close the Enchanted Tea Garden permanently. The aunts would still be blending their justifiably famous tea, but the antique shop and the Enchanted Tea Garden would have to be closed and sold. We had about a week before their doors would shut for good.
Of course I called Darling up. It was arranged that, as the new Harry Potter book was being launched†, that we would meet that evening with copies in plain covers. We sat and read, too intent on reading fresh work to converse much; we would pause to take a sip of Darjeeling now and then. From time to time, one of us would look up with amused eyes, and read a particularly pleasing passage. As my redheaded friend came to clear our cups and announce closing, I took one last look around me, and bid the Enchanted Tea Garden adieu. It stands empty, now, waiting for someone to come and enchant it again.
* Gypsy Lily, ladies and gentlemen:
†The Half-blood Prince, if you were wondering.