Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tea for Trauma

Such an ordinary morning on April the 20th.

At 9:19am, it became terrifyingly unordinary.

When the dust and metal and wood and
glass stopped falling, I was amazingly able to walk away.

Physically - a few bruises and nothing more.

Mentally - well that has some peculiar challenges...

The Gore Bay Harbour Centre

On that morning, I was backing up our 2004 F-150, at a snail's pace, carefully lining it up with the wooden ramp that crosses over the lower walkway joining the Gore Bay Harbour Centre with the public swim beach.  My studio and gallery are on the second floor and I had come to work early to pick up some large pieces of cardboard packaging and a wooden pallet that were from a delivery of framing supplies received the day before.

When I had the truck in position, I took my foot off the accelerator and gently applied the brake.  Instead of the truck coming to a stop, the engine roared with an open throttle and sent the truck backward at high speed, smashing through the middle post of the wooden ramp. (this ramp is not designed for vehicles, but for foot traffic.)  No amount of firm pressure or pumping the brakes worked and the throttle was possessed with a mind of its own, accelerating the truck across the 40ft ramp and not stopping until after crashing through the glass doors of the entrance to the second floor and becoming wedged in the foyer.

Lovely, kind workers in the other part of the building came to my aid, got my shaking body to sit in a chair while they put calls in to all the proper authorities for such things.  Paramedics came and carried out their regulatory exams and though they urged me to let them take me to the hospital for further tests, they allowed me to forego that by having me sign a form, relieving them of further duties.  I was asked by a co-tenant if I would like some tea.  (Tea and me - we have something special going, but it isn't just the drinking of it.)  I declined, but accepted water.  The town clerk and town foreman took a report from me on what happened while Constable "Bob" waited his turn.  All persons involved with the aftermath were thoughtful and adept and made the ordeal a little easier to process.

Not wanting me to be alone while I waited for Kevin to come, my dear friend and curator of the museum came to sit with me in my studio.

"Shall I go downstairs and make us some tea?" she offered.

"No thank you, Nicole.  What I would really like to do, what I really feel would help settle my nerves, is make YOU some tea."

Tetsubin water kettle and demitasse cup and saucer

Nicole knows me, knows my habits and knew this would, indeed, be a soothing thing for me to do.

My tea habit is a personal ritual which assists me throughout the day's creative work.  My manner of preparing tea is an amalgamation/adaptation/adulteration of "gong fu cha", a Chinese method of brewing tea with additional influences from "chanoyu", the Japanese tea ceremony.

Gong Fu Cha on the studio balcony
Tea for three

I did not set out to craft a "manner" of preparing tea, but over the years, things rather evolved on their own and I simply followed intuition and various predilections, often driven by a love of forms, textures and nuances of taste.  Tea with Kevin, at home, is a nightly affair and tea out on the preserve among the horses, or down at the beach, are favourite moments on my days off.

Tea, after dinner

The Ravenseyrie traveling tea outfit
and wonderful puerh sourced by Jalam Teas

Tea at the Top of the World on the
Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

Listening to the soughing of the water heating up, prying off some leaves from a compressed cake of sheng and the quiet voice of Nicole began to help the enervated jigging of my body mellow some.  Watching the water pour out of the kettle and into the kyusu and the steam arising worked wonderful magic - as it always does.  Pouring the infusion, I felt amazingly steady while the music of the pour and the golden stream filled the exquisite cups, but my hand shook as I offered Nicole hers and a bit of the elixir spilled.  We just carried on without worry talking about things that took us away from the awful event that had unfolded a hour earlier.

The Ravenseyrie Studio Tea Corner

The "awful event" I have since come to learn is not a one-off-freak-accident, but something that, while rare, has occurred in a number of models of Ford vehicles (and other manufacturers makes of automobiles, too).  All over the world these types of accidents are occurring, causing damage to properties, buildings, vehicles, and people.  Not all victims of this type of vehicle malfunction have been able to walk away and many involved have lost their lives .  It is called "sudden unintended acceleration" and it is not something that the auto industry is particularly forthcoming about.  Nevertheless, a number of engineers and vehicle safety researchers have acknowledged the phenomenon and there have been class action suits filed against Ford in the U.S. as well as Canada.

USA Today graphic 28Mar13

A couple years ago, Kevin had our truck equipped with a device offered by our insurance company which monitors our how we drive and we were able to receive lower rates due to data collected by the device which demonstrates our safe driving habits.  This device has documented the "awful event" and we are now in the process of finding the best way to proceed with reconciling things.

I continue to give thanks that I was not hurt, that no other people or animals were hurt and the building will receive good repairs.  We are fortunate it is not winter and we can get along for now without a truck.  We have the trusty, rusty Jeep Wrangler and winter's retreat means I have resumed my commute to work via bicycle.   And the grass has come back to the landscape - making for happy wild horses.  And the air is fair and the migratory birds are back and there are many, many delightful ways to chase away niggling PTSD worries with creating time for tea.

Tea ceremony on the beach on the
Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

Many thanks to the people whose work contributes to my tea habit:

Petr Novák & Mirka Randová - absolute artists with clay and a real feel for teaware.  Many works by them found their way to Canada.

Jeff Fuchs - walking ancient mountain trails, capturing amazing photos, authentic elders' stories and sourcing rustic, hand processed teas with amazing terroir.

Jalam Teas - monthly tea club established by Jeff Fuchs and friends.

• Hojo - source of our cast iron water kettle, aka Tetsubin.

Taiwan Tea Crafts - source of our home kyusu tea set.

Below, rather than showing images from the "awful event", I'd rather share some soothing tea scenes.

Tea meditation on the studio balcony

A drink of tea on the studio balcony in snow fog

Tea ceremony down on the Gore Bay waterfront

Charcoal burner heats the water kettle

Second life for an old cast off Franklin stove,
perfect for a tea time getaway

Taking tea down at the beach house
at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

An exquisite eapot by Petr Novak
Infusing tea on the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

More information on Sudden Unintended Acceleration:

Samuel J. Sero BSEE, P.E.
Renaissance Engineering
Forensic Engineers

• Consumer Reports - video on what to do if experiencing Sudden Unintended Acceleration

•  from the Centre for Auto Safety, a engineer's thorough study of the phenomenon, available as a PDF:

• Class Action Lawsuit in Canada

"Reports of unintended accelerations in Ford vehicles increased significantly in 2002, when Ford began installing their electronic throttle control system in a broad range of its vehicle lines.  Electronic throttle control system equipped vehicles are sometimes referred to as "throttle-by-wire" or "drive-by-wire" because the electronic throttle control system has no mechanical linkage between the accelerator pedal and the throttle plate in the engine. Sudden or runaway acceleration occurs when the throttle opens contrary to the driver's intentions.    Consequently, most automobiles provide an electronic or mechanical fail-safe to allow the driver to bring the vehicle safely under control when faced with sudden acceleration.  Ford has failed to provide such a fail-safe on any of the affected Ford vehicles equipped with the electronic throttle control system. These vehicles share a common design defect in that they lack adequate fail-safe systems, including a reliable Brake Over Accelerator ("BOA") system (also sometimes referred to as a Brake Override System) that would allow a driver to end sudden unintended acceleration by depressing the brake." stated Tony Merchant, Q.C., regarding the Canadian Ford Sudden Acceleration Class Action litigation being handled by his law firm.