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A Garden Monk Sips Coffee

A monk sips morning tea,
it’s quiet,
the chrysanthemum’s flowering.

— Matsuo Bashō

The mornings are chilly again, and unlike Bashō’s poem, full of the sounds of squirrels gathering food and bickering about who gets what. The water is warmer than the air, for the sun is reluctant to stick around so long nowadays. The seasons are flipping, just as surely as the hickory nuts are falling.

I think about the fall cleanup and shudder. Is it the chill in the air or the thought of forced labor to come? We dream of autumn for all its beauty, for the crisp air and the scent of fallen leaves. We forget about the work. We pay penance for the pleasure.

I promised myself I’d drink more tea this summer. I planned to use more of the mint spilling out of its terra cotta pot in an attempt to displace the basil in the neighboring pot. Yet the drink of choice is most often coffee. Does coffee nullify my monk inclinations, or does the ritual matter more? Ask the flowers—for they’ve quietly observed all summer.

For all the changes, some things remain the same.

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