Brace your cups and clench your saucers, Readrrr; it’s gonna be a hot one. That is to say, the tea has arrived and the nuns have finally discovered its whereabouts. Our Perpetual Owl-of-the-Tea has landed safely on the roof of the abbey and the tea has been transported to the tabernacle. As a result of this, I have an incident to report. The incident took place two long weeks, but our celebration of our dear Lord’s birth had to come first (you understand, Readrrr). Thus, only now have I secured the necessary fortitude to sit down and actually attempt to tell of it (see the view from my spy goggles below).
We’ve been on Yuletide Lockdown, busy with our all-nun reenactment of The Nativity (I protested, but they made me play Baby Jesus, laying me in a manger and everything). Christmas was extravagant, as usual, despite the poverty of our abbey and the pre-Christmas lock-down, because we were all shuttled in the Nun Bus over to our sub-urban congregation, where the collection baskets are filled with the checks of doctors and lawyers and where the priests are always pot-bellied and rosy-cheeked. No hard feelings, though; we were just grateful to enjoy the fumes of frankincense and the booming sounds of a chorus, a bell choir, and candlelit three-hundred person congregation singing traditional hymns of worship and celebration, between midnight and two hours past midnight.
The nuns do know that I also celebrate HeX-Mas, concurrently, but they feel my festive actions are not all that different than the ones practiced by the entire church, so they allow it (I told you the nuns were wise!). Anyway, back to Christmas Eve: we held hands and wept for joy in the crying room together for some time after midnight mass, and then we snuggled into bed, where visions of sugarnuns danced in our heads (and I dreamed of a sugarplum tea concoction that dances on the tongue).
Billie Holiday’s song about Yuletide Lockdown
So, Our Lorde’s sacred birth aside, I must segue into telling you that, even in the midst of a lock-down, last week there was a major break with yuletide tradition! It happened on Teabernacle Tuesday, or Teasday, here at the convent, and it involved all the (nun)yule-sual suspects. To be more specific, there was a major yuletide break-in at the abbey. One that I planned and carried out, but not without glitches, hitches and stitches.
Two weeks ago –on Blessed Teasday– the wickedly handsome tea-guru, Miss Stir Steve Ellis, came to us, by air mail and care of the queen, in the form of a shadowy tea-loving midnight owl. The fellow, apparently, has impeccable and impossible timing, in addition to being wickedly rad and dashing, and I know this because he arrived, wicked wings and all, on the morning of International Tea Day, nattering on in husky hootery about the romance and occasional horror of transatlantic travel.
When I smuggled my little owl friend through the abbey chapel, into The Hooting Room (read: foyer) and up through one of its (Von)trap doors, one which led directly into the Foyer of Follies, I did so with the intention of surprising the nuns with a tearrific meet and greet. Though it was a nearly-impossible mission, I managed to keep my lips zipped for more than a whole week so that the nuns could have their little surprise– and sip it, too.
So: about the GOH (guest of honor): the little chap, sent to us by the good founder of Wise Owl Tea, is an owl of many hoots. I am, fortunately, a translator of hoots: I read and speak Hoot and, so, had no problem whatsoever serving as translator during the entire encounter.
My readrrr is probably wondering as to the origins of my association with Wise Owl Tea. While I shan’t divulge the entire trajectory of our majestic association, I shall say that my cabaret show, “Sistrrr Grim Hoots The Standards,” had something to do with it. In particular, my orchestration of a nun chorus hooting Lullaby of Birdland. That, and that he was delighted by their musical tribute to Oscar Wilde, at which I sang a delicate and enrapturing “Little Yellow Bird,” from a 5’1” golden cage, directly into the mesmerized eyes of my longtime Shabby Abbey best.e.e., cinema-noir-loving Sistrrr Sackville, who sat at a table across from me, white-gloved and top-hatted, playing the part of a young Dorian Gray. I then, subsequently, met dear Miss Stir Ellis literally four scores (but not seven years) ago, when we were both moonlighting at a stormy jazz club called Sugar Spoon on the edge of the edge of some town, somewhere. This time, I was singing what I call ‘lavender cabaret’ and Miss Stir Ellis was serving lavender and hibiscus tea to the beat of my hum drum ballads. There were kilted bagpipe players involved, I recall– it was that kind of cabaret. I recall, too, that Miss Stir Ellis was the only one in that room who could truly pull off a kilt, in both senses!
If you’re wondering how the nuns let me get away with this and why they went along with it, then wonder no more: oh yes, the nuns were there, wearing kilts and blowing on pipes (what do you expect; they were calling!). However, do not be fooled into assuming that shenanigans must have been afoot; the nuns wore the kilts over their habits, and they followed The Vat’s orders to “procure the tea for Rome but to be led not into temptation enough to try it.” They did what they were told from the hie-errr ups and delivered Miss Stir Ellis’ tea to Rome without even so much as a sniff into the sacks.
I do not pretend to be a good nun. Witnessing their abstention from the tea bothered me so much that, four months after the incident at Sugar Spoon, I created the teabernacle to procure my revenge. I did this by forging a letter from Archpriest Danno. This was not easy, as F. Danno’s handwriting was more flamboyant than Liberace’s –but without the finesse and pizzazz– and his tone and style were nauseatingly and Nazi-atingly pretentious and genocidal. His writing style is a direct translation of the fact that he has one of Dave Grohl’s rejected drum sticks, also known as The Toilet Plunger, stuck up his perpetually clenched and abnormally tight knit porcelain tuckus. It’s one of those situations where God has granted a man the gift of divine impotence, in all aspects of his life, but the man remains unaware and, therefore, unappreciative of this gift, and, in a state of great irony, can do nothing but boast of his nonexistent performance equipment and skills. It is what we, Readrrr, call inflation. A metaphor, perhaps, but it’s all there, and decipherable, in the handwriting alone. But we’ve no time presently to go into the consequences of genocidal handwriting.
All it takes is one encounter to detect it– if one is a detective. I, myself, happen to actually be equipped, as a full-time Writing Detective and Nun Spy, to make solid handwriting diagnoses (i.e., assessments, or -if need be- assassinations of (asinine) character(s)). Writing, Readrrr, is my area of study and vocation: I seek to become intimate, or just to brush past, every particle of every color in the rainbow of its spectrum. As the one-and-only writing tutor at the Shabby Abbey, I, managing to withstand the unpleasantness of F. Danno Script, was able to identify, label, and replicate his illegible and highfalutin chicken(butt) scratch. I think of the act as one of kindness: a negation of the forgery that was committed when F. Danno was put into power by The Vat. No worries, though, Readrrr: the nuns man-aged to deny, ahem-defy- Father Danno and I was able to reconnect the nuns with their tea. Despite his curmudgeonly non-presence, I did so with very little dishonestea (what sins I could not help but act upon, I took directly to Fathrrr Wilko, my favorite priest on the planet, who granted me global absolution).
So, jumping back to the nuns at Sugar Spoon for a moment: there was, indeed, a wet and feathery bond of sorts, forged even way back then. But now there has been a reunion, which, if nurtured and continued as intended, should eventually lead to a permanent union, maybe even under a Yew tree, between the nuns and the tea (an occasion at which the wise owl would officiate). A grim sistrrr can dream. And a tea can make her nun dreams come true. But only a very special tea, which brings us to last week.
My probationary nun dream came true when a very adorable Wise Owl showed up at my door with tea in tow. Our abbey now has a permanent tea owl presiding over the teabernacle, hooting jazz ballads all through the nunrelenting night. My report is, however, primarily concerned with how the nuns broke and entered hardcore into the teabernacle when they met their pet and budding mascot for the first time.
The reason it has taken me so long to report on this currant (!) event, aside from the birth of Our Lorde, is that I have been busy spying, with my (on-) high tech e\quip\ment all day. We work according to strange, lavender clockwork over here at Sh-Abbey yet I know it is always a good time to report on an important occasion in the lives of the nuns.
With the help of my wimple-veiled spynoculars, I have noted over the past two or so weeks that the nuns have been making sneaky, (not-so-)secret but oh!so!compulsive visits to the teabernacle, in search of –what else– tea. They’ve been foamy and frothy about this, and if you know the nuns, you know they foam at the mouth when they have tea on their minds.
How did the foaming nuns gets a taste of the tea, you wish to know? From yours truly. I have been staying up late to slip into the rooms of the nuns with my tea tray. It’s an experiment of sorts, and it’s also medicinal, I believe. When the tea arrived two weeks ago, I began introducing tea to the nuns, while they were sleeping, to see if I could get them to dream of tea. It worked instantly.
The first time I made my rounds, I simply held a bag of Tahitian Night Night below the restless and deprived nostrils of the nuns. Those nostrils flared. Some of them sniffed. They all sighed. The morning after the gentle nasal induction/conduction, the nuns reported that they had the sweetest dreams. They were also more well-rested than they have been in a long time. Sistrrr Violet, in particular, was affected, and told us that she had the loveliest dream in which Our Heavenly Fathrrr lay her in a field of fragrant lavender to present her with a lilac-hued priest’s cassock etched and lined in indigo forget-me-nots (not to be confused with ‘forget-me-bots’). She was completely nude but (n)unashamed until Hee cloaked her gently in the impossibly-soft cassock. Now, Readrrr, I could de-code this dream for Sistrrr Violet, but I have to be careful with the nuns. They cannot handle too much directness at one time, unless it comes from their divine director.
I could only observe and listen intently to Sistrrr Violet’s wistful vision. She was chock full of gray-white wisteria, too, I was sure. I took it as a sign from God to continue; in learning of her state of innocent ecstasy, I knew that my visit with tea was upstairs-sanctioned. And so, that very night, once my sleeping gown was flung over my frail figure, I crept along the corridor on tip toe into the nuns’ quarters with tea, like a will-o’-the-wisp– only this time I carried with me another flavor combination. Corsican Olive Leaf tea. With this tea, I took deep into consideration the significance of the olive leaf, since it is a prime ingredient. The olive leaf is Biblically, historically, culturally, and mythologically important. We can talk about the implications of the olive leaf within these contexts in depth later, but for now, the essential piece of information is that the olive leaf might be the first botanical mentioned in the Bible, in the context of Genesis, when Noah’s safe passage off of the Ark is signaled and marked by the return of a dove with an olive leaf (yes, much like my tea smuggling operation was marked by the arrival of Wise Owl…much like that!).
“And the dove came in to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”
Genesis 8 : 11
The above Biblical passage emphasizes the olive leaf’s representation of God’s power and a return to life, and the dove is the messenger: the bringer of the good news of life. It also offers an exquisite look into what I tried to recreate on the beds of the nuns that night. The nuns, entombed by their twin beds, seemed so lifeless. And so I said to each one, in a soft whisper, “Lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off.” I tried to be as gentle and loving as possible when I plucked an olive leaf from the tiny bags of tea. This may not make sense to everyone, but I see myself as the abbey dove. It is my job to remind the nuns that they are alive, as sometimes they do forget– that life awaits them, that God makes life possible, that they need not fear disaster.
And so it was with great care and slowness that I placed the olive leaves between my own lips and pressed them into their slumbering mouths. I could not help but send a kiss with the leaves, to place both on the lips of each one, Readrrr, as they themselves, not to point fingers, brought my leaf-held lips to theirs before I had a chance to purse of my own volition.
The next morning, they were engaging in what I can only call “Love Fest.” I awoke to sounds of such rejoicing– sounds I have never before heard at the Shabby Abbey. The nuns seemed renewed, restored… alive. I spent half of the day thanking Our Dear Lorde for this miracle of public displays of affection shown on the grounds by the nuns, and I am just glad F. Danno wasn’t around to kill the fragile fetus of amorousness that had sprung into the womb of the convent all because of the power of one magnificent, divine tea leaf! It seemed the nuns were satisfied for a moment, miracle-of-miracles. Satisfaction without a conscious craving: imagine that!
Many don’t know this, but the nuns do have cravings. They crave with more intensity and voracity, in fact, than the average street addict, and the reason for this, I’ve deduced, is a combination of self-denial and celibacy. But their cravings are all held inward. Not expressed. Since I do not possess the capacity for repression, I can only relate to this through prayer and God-granted compassion. Even my humblest knowledge of their cravings causes me to blast K.D. Lang’s “Constant Craving” from my little nun chamber whenever it’s my turn with the boom box, as if doing so will awaken their recognition and outward acknowledgement of their cravings. My blasting behavior is mostly demonstrative, but since I have all of the nuns’ rooms bugged, I know exactly how they react when the song begins: very predictably, by falling down on their knees and wailing “eeeee-ven through the darkest phase…” They arch their backs like ravenous wolves under psychedelic blood moons and you have never seen such faces of aching nor such torsos of trembling, Readrrr!
Having hummed the song daily throughout November, I had them primed for teabernacle surrender in December. Precisely according to plan, after the olive leaf treatment, their collective checking compulsion went off the charts. All the nuns have severe cases of OCD, but they consider it a gift from God, and I agree. Oh they would still be horrified that they have been observed by anyone but God-In-Whom-They-Trust, but I cannot help that my divine purpose, gift, and ultimate vocation is to nunderstand the nuns and, simultaneously, open my big mouth when they come forth.
Oh, and since I have witnessed directly their starvation rituals, I made it my job to feed them. They feed me, in their way. To me, the finest food of love is all compact in the meeting of mouth and tea, and so I set out to satisfy. As long as I am on probation at this convent, I vow to bring them satisfactions, using my spy gear and my cauldron. My triune goal of studying, stuffing and satisfying the nuns is also aimed at raising awareness about their sorry state because I want more people to care about what happens to them. It requires a lot of sacrifice on my part to keep the nuns satisfied– right now the plan is: I procure tea, I deliver tea, I submerge tea, I bring tea to the nunquenchable lips of the nuns. It’s part of the job description that I am in the process of writing for myself.
Given all this, I still went into it with minimal expectations. I never expected the nuns to act like a bunch of wayward wenches but that is just what happened when the tea came and the owl entered into the foyer with binocular insights and binaural incantations. Once I visited them in bed with tea and Wise Owl began overseeing the teabernacle, the cravings for tea caught fire, in some cases literally, and the nuns were trying to break into the golden structure at all hours of the day and night. I have never seen so many tea-obsessed zombie nuns in all my life!
Let me be clear, however, that it was the Peruvian Azteca Fire tea that really set them off. The night prior to the Shabby Abbey Fire of 2015, I came to the nuns’ rooms with a bit of the tea, loose leafed, and lit it on fire in the incense chalice (each nun has one close to her bedside). I let it burn through the night, hoping the chocolate smoke would spark something in the nuns.
Spark something, it did. I awoke, around 7:40 AM Nunnery Time, to an overwhelming smell of fire. I looked up and thought I detected a thick film of smoke creeping in from the upper crack of my door. I then heard the crackling. It cackled wispily in the distance, like a demon fae. It took me a moment, but it was then that I realized Queen Mab was in the process of paying our abbey a visit. Room by room, elicited somehow by my burning of the tea, she paid her visits, ending finally in my bed, penetrating my dreams with her tiny chariot.
Why is the midwife of maids paying the nuns a visit, I paused to wonder, until I felt the tickle of her spidery wagon spokes faintly moving against the inside of my right nostril, as she exited my nose. Mab never expected me to awaken during her visit; I promise you that. She was startled. And my awakening was a first for her. Typically, her entrances and exits in her hazelnut chariot are smooth and go unnoticed, but with me, they tickled and went nunnoticed. Never had Mab been caught in the brain of a lover before being caught inside mine. When she appeared, I blinked a few times to decipher her shape. Then I grabbed Mab by the arched eyebrow, placed her on my bent knee, and whispered, “Why has the evil and twisted sister of The Lady in the Lake come to penetrate me thus?” Readrrr, I was earnest but not harsh with her. I only wanted answers. She sailed as majestically as a firefly toward my lips, and tickling them, sang into my cavern of a mouth,
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage
If I were not a probationary nun, I would think this Queen meant to impregnate me! But, oh, never mind; she was just reciting Romeo and Juliet.
I realized and pondered for a moment that perhaps she had been sent from the Friary Priory. In less than the time it took to ponder momentarily, she floated out of my sight and I tuned back into the burning smell that was overtaking the abbey. I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter– and I knew just where to go first.
The foyer was afog with smoke. I burst into it and found that the nuns had managed to lug in a wood burning stove from the basement and were boiling a number of gallons of water in my cauldron! The fire surrounding the cast iron cauldron, in its sizable chamber, was impressive.
A second later, I drew my astonished eyes from the stove and saw that the nuns were tossing about an odd confetti. It was then that I realized that it was a tea confetti– Eek, my plan had worked! They were no longer immune to the bewitching charms of tea! Desire had awakened them, with the help of Queen Mab’s finger-staff, and they collaborated rebelliously to make a cauldron of tea. While I was sleeping, they broke into the teabernacle and met our Wise Owl before I could properly introduce him to them! The flakes of chili, ginger, and lime flower were flying everywhere. Sistrrr Sabarrah, lover of irony whose Hebrew name means ‘thorny cactus’, was in the corner getting cozy with a pot of honey. I could barely discern her melodic and e(eyo)rotic ‘Oh bothers’ over the noise of the boisterous nuns, who seemed to have forgotten Yuletide Lockdown altogether, and were hooting up at their seeming-new deity, Wise Owl.
Wise Owl looked down on me, and calmly hooted, “Glad yooo-ooou could join us. We’re about toooooooo try a tea called Peruuuu-uuuuvian Azteca Fire for the first time. Pick up a cup, won’t youuuu-uuuu.” I did as was suggested and then sat on the floor, next to Sistrrr Sabarrah, who was by then covered wimpled head to toe in honey. “Just be grateful Head MoFo doesn’t want us to become bee-keeping nuns,” I said, my teasing tone nudging her to look at me. I had to help her; she couldn’t see with the honey dripping down her eyelids. “Here,” I said, swiping honey off of her eyes and lips. I proceeded to clean her up, because, well, I was responsible for it. Satisfying the nuns is not all fun and games, you know; it takes a lot of hard work. I ended up with a belly full of Sistrrr Sabarrah’s honey and tried to tell her next time to keep the honey confined to her mouth. We’ll see how she does next week.
Anyway, while the nuns were playing with their cacao nibs and waiting as patiently as possible for the water to boil, Wise Owl began intoning hootily the opening lines from Dante’s Inferno.
Once that happened, we were all entranced. Very eerily, I noted for the first time that Sistrrr Sabarrah is a dead ringer for a classical rendering of Dante Alighieri. Maybe it was the honey, maybe it was the divine frown, or the heart-stopping effect of her brow, but whatever it is, I got fired up about it. The entire scenario was scorching. I said, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Dante?” She said, “Dante Whoooo-oooo?!” I told you she was a lover of irony! Oh, Readrrr, what a day we had in the foyer. What a wonderful, not warm but, HOT welcome to our Wise Owl, and what a wonderful way to revere and try for the first time PA Fire Tea. It was absolute inferno, and so much more.
One thing I will recommend for those who are fortunate and daring enough to hold fire in their mouths, play with fire, and breathe fire: make sure the water is HOT. If the water is not hot, then the tea cannot be hot, and the tea MUST be HOT to serve its intended purpose– which is to burn inside and set fire to the sipper. Peruvian Azteca Fire tea is perfect for sipping in December. It’s a tea that will make you hot all over and crackle inside you, I swear. There is a whole lot of green earthiness that comes through, from the ginseng mostly, I gather; but the highlight of this tea is the way that the fire travels through it. There is a definite pinch of heat at both the start and finish of each mouthful.
To drink it properly, you must think of it as an experience in desire and an exercise in restraint. If you want to live like the nuns, you will already be acutely aware of what it means to live perpetually on the border between desire and restraint. This is why I could never be a nun and why I plan to only stay here until my friary prioress and I can escape, but it is still a fascinating experience, when you can behold it in a cup. Drinking PA Fire is like drinking a cup of nun. There is no experience like it. The smell is subtle, and the entire experience in subtle, but this tea, like the nuns, will teach you how to understand the gravity and complexity of subtlety. Drink it when you’re ready to enter the inferno, and do not do so expecting your mouth to go up in flames. Your tongue has to seek out the nuances of the flames when it swirls inside the hot pool of the tea. The heat will creep about your mouth but the inferno doesn’t happen in the cup: the inferno takes place once the sparks provided by the Aztecan fire are inside you. Then you will know what it is to burn at the stake. Then you will know, because tea will teach you.
Only one nun was burned at the stake because of this tea, I want to reassure you– and only one tea, in its punchy pool of hot wetness, was set on fire. But how righteous it was for us to expend ourselves on an entire day, and night, devoted to fire and tea (and, of course, GOD, because we were reading from the holy prophet Dante, after all!).
Tribute to Sistrrr Sabarrah.
We spent the entire day swiping generous globs of relieving honey from Sistrrr Sabarrah’s thighs into our teacups (well, I did, anyway), steeping cauldron after cauldron of the burning tea, and listening to the charming hoots of our Teabernacle Readrrr. It is still true, of course, that we didn’t start the fire: it was, in the words of Billy Joel and according to Scripture, “always burning since the world’s been turning.” But we did steep the tea in the fire, and we did find divine satisfaction.
To those who might question the morality of this event, I insist that I do not regret unleashing the Wise Owl nor the Teabernacle on the nuns. The Vat may not like it, as they may see it as a threat against their crusade to deny the nuns their right to their own bodies (of Christ) but The Vat needs to learn.
Now, onto blessed Christmas. Readrrr, for the first time, I went to bed crooning “O Ho-ly Night” on Christmas Eve! I was not alone. I was in the company of my fire tea– holding my tea in my hands, pressing my tea to my lips, drinking in my tea with reverence, swallowing my tea with satisfaction. Whoever doesn’t think this is a legitimate way of celebrating the birth of Our Savior has never met my tea before!