The Ceramic Gourd
By Vivi Rathbone.
Once I had an wooden mate gourd that I loved. It was a gift from an amazing friend.
It was deep and warm and held a lot of yerba. It was a vessel of love that pumped tea, circulating it from thermos through bombilla to stomach. I thought of it as an external heart: one I could hold in my hand. That gourd and I shared some good pours.
One day my wooden mate gourd cracked. Warm water trickled out and wet my hand. It was a tiny crack, at first. It grew.
So I put it away on a shelf, and determined to forget it. I was very disappointed by that crack. When my thirst overcame me, and I craved mate again, I went back to the shelf to retrieve it. The wooden gourd had dried and contracted. The crack was gone. I rejoiced!
Unfortunately, the hot water made the wood gourd swell. The crack returned. As it widened my disappointment grew until one day it split down the middle and burned my hand. I was angry, so I threw it out the window of my eighth floor apartment, watching from above as it smashed on the busy street below.
I mourned my wooden mate gourd, thinking of all the rounds of tea we’d shared. I went back to using my old metal gourd. It wasn’t as nice as the wooden gourd, but it was mine and it was strong and reliable. I stumbled across an amazing silver embellished bombilla. The mouth piece was flat, and it made drinking mate so easy and nice. It kept my love for mate alive with sipping pleasure.
I continued drinking mate and I didn’t think much about replacing the gourd that I threw out the window. I didn’t want just any gourd rebound. I was content to forever drink from my metal gourd. I had everything I needed, and a really nice bombilla.
When I saw other mate gourds for sale, I never looked too closely. I had tried my luck on a new gourd once before, and it hadn’t worked out so well. I knew I’d find a gourd when the time was right, so there was no need to look.
One day I went to a feria with a friend and shopped the stalls of beautiful artisan goods. I bought incense and fig candies. Some vendors sold mate gourds. I looked at the artisan crafted gourds, and contemplated purchasing one. But I didn’t really see one that I liked. After two and a half years of drinking mate, I knew what makes a good gourd, and what I want in a gourd, and that I’d know the right gourd when I found it.
It was a large artisan fair, there were lots of things for sale. My eye was caught by pretty ceramic pottery in a stall selling unique hand painted cups. They were precious little cups. I thought ‘this could make a good gourd’ before reading the display sign that said ‘MATE’. I don’t know why I’d never thought of a ceramic gourd before! I wanted one. It felt good to want one.
“A ceramic gourd?” I asked the vendor.
He looked at me like I was a novice. “Si, claro! It’s the best!”
I held two little cups, and debated. They were both very pretty and appealing and both would surely make for some lovely meriendas. I chose the gourd in my right hand. I knew it was the one for me. I didn’t have to go looking for it. When it was there, I found it.