I printed Mapquest directions for my first visit to Phyllis’ home. She’d invited me and a mutual friend, Connie, for tea at 12:30 p.m. Although I gave myself ample time for taking wrong turns, I arrived late and embarrassed. Tardiness is no way to establish the harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility of taking tea together.

What a relief to see a door open to my friends’ smiling faces! Now, I’ve known Connie’s indefatigable and playful spirit from age eighteen. We’ve since found a common interest in a bone china teacup filled with steeped, steamy Earl Gray black tea.

Phyllis waved me to the back porch. “Come on in!”

“I apologize. I drove to your daughter-in-law’s house. She told me where you live,” I said as we gathered in the kitchen.

“You’re not late,” Phyllis consoled.

She removed from the oven grilled, open-faced ham, cheese, and home-grown tomato sandwiches. A ting of cloves and peaches scented the air. “I made lemon zucchini bread to serve with fresh peaches for dessert.”

Ah, my favorite course.

As we enjoyed our chilled lemonade, sandwich, and coleslaw on the front porch, the harmony of good food and company calmed my mind and spirit. I admired the flowering roses and hydrangeas along the railing, well aware of the effort and expense devoted to grow and sustain the plants.

“Your gardens are beautiful, and your meal is delicious. I’m so glad I knocked on your daughter-in-law’s door at the end of the wrong road!”

“I am, too,” Phyllis said. “Would you ladies like dessert on the back porch?”

There, overlooking her large perennial garden’s lush shrubs, flowers, and various arbors covered with vines, we sipped hot tea. All too soon we consumed our sweet cake and pure, Michigan peaches, and Cook’s lavender lemon ice cream I delivered into Phyllis’ hands when I arrived.

Indeed, how could two friends better respect Phyllis’ home-grown zucchini, with chocolate morsels sprinkled into the batter to boot, than together on her back porch overlooking her garden?

Furthermore, as the aesthetic ideals of the tea ceremony embrace, Phyllis’ personal art in some medium or manner appeared throughout her house and gardens. So we sipped our bitter tea and ate our sweets as Sen no Rikyu, the Sixteenth Century’s most revered tea master, advocated.

At last, we placed our empty tea cups and plates inside on the kitchen counter. “Follow me!” Phyllis said.

We walked around the circle within her garden, entered arbors with narrow passages that would cause a student of Sen no Rikyu to smile and bow.

When time came to depart, Connie said, “I’ll lead you out to Lake Pleasant Road. You know how to get home from there.”

“Yes!” I said.

“The Suncrest Garden is on our way home. Would you like to stop by? You gave a tea talk to their garden club in 2004.”

Dear Reader, again, my determined friend guided me through Lapeer County’s Display Garden on Suncrest. We saw Sen no Rikyu’s imprint everywhere, particularly in the chimes, my favorite feature.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail. com