A tiny bell sings a lonely note as the bright red door opens to the herb shop. It's the only sound beside our footsteps. This is the beginning of our story.
The shop smells strongly of ginseng and dried mushrooms. It's full of small windows, long rows of shelves, and glass display cases. There's an old man and a young lady waiting behind the counter. Beside them in a picture frame hangs a six-foot long ginseng.
The young lady is half the height of the man and more shy than her shadow. She wears a white robe and her hair up in a bun held together with a ribbon. She never makes direct eye contact and speaks in whispers of all the secrets in the world. The young lady desires more than anything else to impress her mentor but is so deeply embarresed by any words of encouragement that she blushes a deep pink on each cheek.
The old man wears a gray robe, thick rimmed circular lenses on his nose, a gray beard that flows down like a waterfall, and an expression of amusement at the endless wonders of the world mixed with mild curiosity toward the presence of a customer. His hands were wrinkled, worn, and scarred from cutting, pounding, stirring, weighing, and packing endless tiny miracles. He doesn't say much but his eyes tells a story about a man of principle, hard work, and a desire to untangle the knots and kinks of life.
When he does speak, he tells a story of roots, branches, and leaves. He speaks of connections and the spaces in-between like they are his own. Some call this man the Herb master and when the herb master speaks he tells a story of locations, people, and lives; stories of other people much more often than a story about himself.
I like to call this man the Tea master, because when I ask for tea he doesn't ask me what kind. He asks me what do I need it for?
The Tea master listens to our desires. We desire beauty, health, youthful energy, charisma, wealth, power, love, intelligence; and he's heard them all. Sometimes he packs medicine, sometimes he tells more stories, and sometimes he packs a placebo. For the master knows that the mind can be more powerful than any drug he can prescribe.
I tell the man that I need something to clear the cobwebs from my eyes and sharpen my focus. He smiles like he has met an old friend who hasn't changed. In a few minutes I became the proud owner of what is roughly translated to Dragon well green tea.
The tiny bell sings another lonely note and the door closes again. An old man and a young lady remain to wait for the next customer, the next desire, the next story.