Sleigh Rides

More pink tea today. This one is called Sleigh Ride, and the ingredients run the gamut from cooked rice and almonds to hibiscus. But when not conjuring irritating Christmassy earworms for us, all it really tastes of is the hibiscus. No surprise, since hibiscus is one of those herbal flavours that rapidly overwhelms everything. And while there’s probably a balance with any tea when it comes to steeping and strength, this one is particularly elusive. Four minutes in and the first cup was hot water, seven and it was only hibiscus.

It’s a flavour we associate with Latvia, probably because our academic daughter had a habit of gifting us hibiscus tea from her home village whenever she returned to town after the holidays. That’s primarily how we know hibiscus tea. It tastes warm and of friendship and is excellent for colds.

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Sleigh Ride though, the name of the tea, is a bit different. We’ve already alluded to the music it triggers – there was a year when our younger brother was addicted to that particular carol and we heard nothing else for a month. But sleigh rides were also a staple of our holidays. Late spring, British Columbia trips skiing. The days were longer, but only by a little, and one evening out of the fortnight we’d put our names down for a sleigh ride. There were horses, and hot apple cider afterwards, but the best part was the miles and miles of client, snowy landscape. A difficult thing to do justice to in description. But here’s a poem that comes close to success.

A Winter Eden

Robert Frost

A winter garden in an alder swamp,
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.

It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead,
And last year’s berries shining scarlet red.

It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feat
On some wild apple tree’s young tender bark,
What well may prove the year’s high girdle mark.

So near to paradise all pairing ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud-inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o’clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.

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