02 Feb, 2011
by Julie Ferris
I read as much as I write. Books invade how I see the world and lately, I’ve been reading authors who describe characters writing letters or the letters being read. I often join my literary world with my visceral world at the Pfister, each time I sit down, I feel as though I should pen a letter.
The setting is perfect for it, of course. I’ve told you before about the endless soft chairs and nooks and crannies. Yet, in my travels through the hotel, I’ve only met one woman so far who was writing in a journal or notepad. Blackberries and iPhones are the tablet of choice for those constructing sentences, but there is a romance in the halls of the hotel that people (and their pens) just aren’t taking advantage of.
If I were to pen a letter to my friend about tea this week, I’d have to start with descriptions of the hum. There were two beautiful women waiting for their party when we arrived and though they very clearly were chatting with each other, their softened tones created only a hum in the air. Surely the soft upholstery of the furnishings also absorbed whatever gossip they were sharing, but the peaceful quality of knowing they were fully engaging each other without forcing us to be a part of what they were saying was refreshing. I dare you to find that the next time you’re in the grocery store line behind someone arguing on a cell phone.
When the rest of the women’s party arrived, it was clear a family function had begun. More than eight women gathered and listened intently to the presentation of tea. This is my favorite part, all the history and story and recipe making of the teas themselves and it was clear one woman in the party was mesmerized. To say she was well dressed is not fitting. If I were to describe her, in this unwritten letter to some friend or sister far away, I’d have to say she embodied winter. A crisp ivory fur hat met its match at her dangling earrings that sparkled and made for perfect snowflakes. Her coat, bangles, rings and sweater were all ivory and full of softness and sparkle and she didn’t flinch—not a single muscle—as she listened to John describe her teas.
This calm fascination, respect, peacefulness is one of the best parts about the tea service. But it’s not the only one. As my friends and I caught up on our gossip over the comforting beverage, a threesome joined the event. They stood out in their dress, clearly not expecting high tea, but rather, a quick escape and cup of coffee. They laughed as they sat themselves in the seats next to us, but then slowly gauged what was going on around them. Asking for coffee, they were told tea was the menu for the afternoon and they chose to stay.
That decision came after the woman in the group turned slowly and eyed our array of delicacies. Though we were willing to describe them to her, she never asked and we couldn’t bear to interrupt because she visually consumed each treat on the elaborate tray one by one and mirrored the same fascination our lady Winter displayed only 30 minutes before.
It’s these simplicities that the Pfister cultivates, but more should recognize. It’s the craft of penning an elegant letter and the slow, careful strokes of neat handwriting. It’s the artful description of leaves in a jar and careful arrangement of snacks on a tray. Simply admiring these elements slows you down, gives you the pause life often begs you to take.
Sure, there’s call for a snow day in Milwaukee. Many are thankful for the “free pass” from work or life events. It’s a mid-week postponement of everything. But each time I take friends to tea at the Pfister and share the event with others who understand, I get to postpone my Monday at my choosing, not Mother Nature’s.