Ode to igoogle’s Teahouse Theme

You torture me, teahouse fox. I sit at this desk, nine-to-five, five days a week (if I’m lucky: sometimes much longer), thinking, worrying, slaving and perspiring, and all in pursuit of what? Money? Success? Respect? The ever-elusive American dream?Maybe you’ve got the right idea, teahouse fox. Living your pastoral existence. Picking oranges, doing laundry, having tea on the dock in the evenings. That’s life, right there. You don’t care about money. You don’t care about fame. You don’t even seem to need the companionship of other foxes: fireflies, geese and caterpillars seem to give you all the company you need. You taunt me with your contentment. As I am madly reviewing accounts and formatting spreadsheets, you are rowing your boat around the pond. How Thoreau-ish of you.  

I’ve just returned from a horrid afternoon meeting, in which my boss demanded the impossible, ranted incoherently, and dripped sweat onto the Powerpoint slides. You meanwhile, are playing some sort of stringed instrument as you sit on the end of your dock. Some childhood memory stirs in me: my feet swinging through the cool breeze, a glass of lemonade clutched in my little hand, the first evening stars glowing in a purple sky. But most likely, I am merely remembering some Country Time ad: my childhood was spent in front of the television in the den of a suburban McMansion.

Hungover and late today. Boss read me the riot act. Teahouse fox, how do you manage it? Near as I can tell, you do not light your incense and tuck into your sleeping bag until at least 2:00 a.m., yet you are always fishing at the end of your dock long before I am awake. I suppose leading a life of simple pleasures does not necessitate much rest.

I’ve just been to lunch with Sheila from marketing. I’d always been intimidated by her attractiveness, but it turns out, she’s totally down-to-earth, and she seems kind of lonely. She had salmon, and I had a bacon cheeseburger. You’ve probably never had one of those, teahouse fox, and let me tell you, you are missing out. I see you’re doing your laundry again. What are those white things, and how do you get them so filthy that you need to wash them every afternoon? I never see you dirtying any linens. Perhaps you take in other people’s laundry to pay for the rent on your teahouse. Which you never seem to enter.

Yearly reviews today. Great news, teahouse fox! I’ve been promoted!!! I have a new office, with a window. And I got a raise, too! And best of all, I asked Sheila out to a fancy dinner to celebrate, and she said yes!!!! I see you’re taking your usual row around the lake, accompanied by that baby chick. Have fun with that.

You might be interested in this, teahouse fox: I’ve been looking at lakefront properties, just like yours! Except not like yours at all, because these are huge and comfortable, and I would never have to sleep outside the door.

Listen, teahouse fox. We need to talk. Your theme isn’t doing it for me anymore: the never-ending cycle of your simple, daily chores has begun to depress me. I’ve been waiting for you to feel some ambition, get motivated, make something new happen in your life, but frankly, I don’t think you’ve got the drive. We’re just not in the same place anymore, teahouse fox, so I’m going to go with a new theme.

In case you’re wondering, I’m going with Seasonal Scape. The frog and the ladybug chug caffeine and play at least three sports every day. Now, that’s what I call energy!


  1. Dylan Parker says:

    FYI your ode is making the rounds on the iGoogle team’s mailing list. As one of the developers on the team, this has made my day.


    1. doc says:

      I have made a screen saver outof the teahouse, but wonder if it violates Google’s policy.
      The screen saver is based on the YouTube video of teaHouse.
      Am willing 2 share if there r no issues.

      Why doesn’t Google put up a screen saver of TeaHouse. The images I have aren’t that good.


    2. F.A. Leonetti says:

      Dear Parker:
      Sometime and many years later than your original post, iGoogle is gone and so, it seems, is the Fox and the Tea House.
      Although, Google’s instructions to save the home page, were followed by someone much smarter than I, The Fox and Tea House was nowhere to be found the next day.
      That was….Nov 1, 2013.
      If, perhaps, some bright knowing person at Google has a ”road map” back to The Fox and Tea House and they would send it to me, or better yet, post it to “”Fox and Tea House Restored”” on line, that would be truly wonderful. Fox and Tea House has a following of vastly huge numbers.
      Who knows, how much good karma Google would bank.
      Best Regards
      Missing Fox and Tea House
      F.A. Leonetti


  2. Elizabeth says:

    And in turn, you’ve made mine! Welcome, all. I actually adore the teahouse guy. Whenever I am blocked, I click over and stare at him as he goes about his activities. Thanks!


  3. chris says:

    I totally agree with you.At first I was envious of the fox. He seems so content but I’m too spontaneous for the hum drum droll of routine. I like how you made a story out of it. Since I have read this, I have made up a story to go with the turtle and lady bug theme for my little boy. He loves to watch them go through their day! By the way..you can see all goggle’s theme by googling igoogle themes!


  4. chris says:

    I meant the frog not turtle!


  5. Velf says:

    I LOVE TEA HOUSE FOX! He is my little bit of the rural idle in my otherwise hectic urban life. However, he and I may be parting company, inspired partly by his gentle antics I’m packing up and moving to a Scottish island. Now I will be the one rowing MY boat and using MY telescope to look at an un-light polluted sky.

    I doubt the weather will be as dry at my teahouse though, less sushi picnics outside 😉

    Maybe I should opt for cityscape? Remind me what I have thankfully left behind?


  6. Rohit says:

    I love the way you describe my fave theme…I understand the way you feel, looking at my teahouse fox igoogle page as I work in office all day…


  7. Lindsey says:

    Usually when I read something funny I get angry that I did not write it and I refuse to acknowledge its existence.

    But this was just too fucking hilarious. I love it.


  8. Edna says:

    What a wonderful ode!!! You have really captured the enchantment and fascination that the world of iGoogle’s “Tea House” theme holds for me. Like you, I adore (and often envy!) the content little Tea House fox. I find the theme and all the characters therein to be thoroughly enchanting (already used that word, but it really expresses the quintessence of the way I feel about the Tea House theme), sweet, somehow kind, and serene. Like you, I am always in a cubicle world, under flourescent lights and trying to understand the purpose of my life and how I ended up in said cubicle world when I feast my eyes on our little fox and go to “my happy place” with him. He is a little cybermuse and I love him and the zen of the Tea House theme!!!

    Your ode rocks!!!


  9. Sandy says:

    I’ve posted your poem at my workplace. You’re a great writer. I actually read the whole thing, way to capture my attention span.

    Don’t know about you, but if I see him pull out that “stringd instrument” I know I have worked way too late and must go home. If I’m home, I pull out MY guitar.



  10. Lee says:

    We have all got captivated by this little fox here the whole family,including visiting relatives.
    We have set the theme at Tokyo time so we can watch the ghostly Yokai arrive on the screen.They come around 3am UK time but on the Tokyo time setting they arrive between 7.10pm to 7.15pm UK time.Saves all that sitting up late and accidently falling asleep.Got fed up of looking at bleary eyed kids snoozing in the day time.


  11. A Passer By says:

    Actually, I think it’s a red panda–not a fox


  12. Slashdotjeo says:

    No, I believe it’s a fox. Just look at the tail.


  13. A Passer By says:

    Maybe. I just thought it looked a lot like a red panda, what with it being a Chinese-looking setting and all . . . oh well


  14. Kate says:

    Japanese, that’s supposed to be Fuji in the background. The japanese use foxes in their legends. They’re supposed to be good luck, especially 9-tailed ones. I named my teahouse fox ‘Kitsune,’ which is what the Japanese call them. I love watching him throughout the day. It relaxes me.


  15. Rick says:

    How much long will our little secret world of the Teahouse be kept quiet?


  16. A Passer By says:

    My favorite scene is when he has his picnic on the opposite side of the pond. He has his little picnic basket and blanket, and he looks so . . . relaxed. Ah . . . the life!


  17. berky says:

    I am going to stay up late tonight so that I can watch the devil steal his dumplings.


  18. tokyo707 says:

    at this stage in life, perhaps Teahouse Fox’s life is too removed and routine… and yet I find it nonetheless charming and warm, and I welcome seeing Teahouse Fox’s fuzzy face on my iGoogle every day. It helps bring a balance to my day. I hope that when I’m old I can live like Teahouse Fox.


  19. martin says:

    thank you… i. needed. that. that was truly lovely.

    i, too, once wrote a more…ummm… terse homage (i used swear words to express how much i loved the fox’s lifestyle) i think it was back in early april, a few weeks after the beta themes came out. i loved the little guy….

    but tonight i reassessed our relationship and realized it might be time to let go, maybe i need to move on without mr. fox. i mean, although he’s there for me at 1:30am when i’m programming, and again at 7am when i’m fighting the daily struggle with dawn, the fact he’s there has simply become routine, too. i had lost interest in what he was doing and didn’t even notice it – since i already knew exactly what he was doing….. but the simplicity, discipline and beauty (displayed thru his friendships) are what attracted me in the first place, and you’ve helped cull those qualities for me through your ode. so a relationship has been rekindled! and for that, i thank you 😉


  20. Pierre says:

    It’s a firefox I believe! (Google them, they’re cute)


  21. abigail says:

    I can’t believe I found a whole group of people with whom to share my love of Teahouse Fox. He was my iGoogle theme at work, and I loved seeing him so much that I made him my theme at home, too. I like how he stays busy and how cute he looks when he’s asleep… 🙂

    I’m a teacher and my kids at school like him, too.


  22. Shannon says:

    It is so nice to see I am not the only one who has found some fascination with iFox and the asian Tea House orchard of enigmatic serenities.

    I’ve only had the honor of visiting with iFox for a few brief days and find myself stuck in a self-induced quandry regarding the where-abouts of Tea House Friends. It seems to me the friends that visit iFox throughout our days should, in all actuality, still be there somewhere. Are they hiding in the orange trees, behind a leaf, sleeping under the pond? Where does that caterpillar go, the firefly, the butterfly, the cricket, stork-like-albeit-white-looking-flamingo and every other creature go?

    For some reason I think they are hidden somewhere and I am suppose to find them. Potentially I’ve put too much thought into this.

    Maybe I will find out the answer, the same day I see that iFox has actually entered that damn house.


  23. sclairet says:

    I, too, love the Tea House Fox and have recently become fascinated phantoms who come to eat the buns. Having accidentally come across this, I have continued looking for them. And, now, I swear I saw a big monster floating across the water.

    Am I seeing things?


  24. lem says:

    i LOVE you!


  25. I love this! I am closely bonded with the teahouse fox as well and last night I told my mate that I am becoming disturbed by the teahouse fox’s lack of need for rest! How can he be so calm and effcient, while I’m so endlessly sleep deprived, yet I never seem him rest? I suspect it is my lack of discipline to a simple routine such as his.

    Tonight I am staying up. I NEED to know what this little fox is up to between midnight and 8 a.m….


  26. Devi says:

    I so love the teahouse theme and the fox! I’ve been up way after the fox has been to bed and haven’t caught the ghosts yet. It’s just so cutie, cute!!


  27. Stone says:

    “Listen, teahouse fox. We need to talk. Your theme isn’t doing it for me anymore: the never-ending cycle of your simple, daily chores has begun to depress me. I’ve been waiting for you to feel some ambition, get motivated, make something new happen in your life, but frankly, I don’t think you’ve got the drive.”

    “At first I was envious of the fox. He seems so content but I’m too spontaneous for the hum drum droll of routine.”

    Excellent ode, quite creative and expected. Though, I don’t understand people’s own reason (and its taken to heart by many) to envy our little red panda friend (yes, I decided that it’s a red panda to me) for his depicted life, then turn on him, thinking his life is mundane and never-ending cycles of chores that’s a hum drum droll of routine.

    … isn’t what what we all do? 9 to 5, monday-friday, for 40+ to 60+ years of our lives driving in boxes, living in boxes, and working in boxes, herds of cattle being moved from one place to another… and this is better than daily laundry washing in the lake?

    Give ME the never-ending cycle of your simple, daily chores any day, for all of my days. Keep your spreadsheets, cubicles, and hours being stuck in traffic. Teahouse Fox’s got the right idea. Ours is just more complex and complicated to the point where we nearly kill ourselves to get nowhere and gain the illusion that we’re getting somewhere. He’s living the smart way. =)



  28. rae says:

    He sleeps in the gmail Tea House theme! I actually like the scenes from that better than the header on iGoogle. He has a little garden and friends other than the geese, caterpillar, etc, come to visit him. =D


  29. Holly says:

    This is brilliant. This is really briliant.
    I love that someone is moving to a Scottish Isle to be more like Teahouse Fox too. That makes me so happy. I started planting seeds and getting into domesticity because of Teahouse Fox. I fear I may becomming reclusive though so I have to look at when he has a monkey round for tea to remember that even Teahouse Fox as the company of others.
    Good old THF. And well done the writer of this ode. It is very, very excellent. 🙂


  30. shantonu says:

    he is great. the tea house fox. but i wish he would do more. i like it when he looks at stars and goes fishing. but wouldn’t it be awesome if he did some gardening, did some calligraphy, or flew a kite as well?

    maybe the developers can make this happen soon.


    1. Melissa says:

      Oh but he does those things…he gardens, paints his scrolls, has tea with a monkey, and so much more. Gmail is the way to go if you want to see the other side of his fabulous little world. You can also see his ancestors come to visit while he sleeps. They sit on his stools and hang out. I’ve seen him feed birds, give birds baths, and even clean his little house! What a life!


  31. Kent says:

    I slept late this morning. Sure enough, by the time I got my computer on, the Teahouse Fox was already picking oranges…and that reminded me of how funny your article was so I went back to read it again. (-: A great essay!


  32. Michelle says:

    He doesn’t sleep outside the teahouse. The wall there is just missing in the pictures so that you can see what he’s doing inside there.


    1. Diz says:

      Don’t see where you get that from. Fox is clearly sleeping on the deck outside the teahouse.


      1. Elizabeth says:

        I think Michelle is referring to the Gmail theme – you can see in his house in Gmail, but in the earlier igoogle theme, he only sleeps on the deck.


  33. Diz says:

    Isn’t it fascinating that people can start out loving this theme for its serenity and simple pleasures (all the things they miss in their life) then end up wanting Fox-san to do more & have a more ‘exciting’ life (in other words making it more like their own)? I am thrilled that people make themes like this for no practical reason at all, just for fun and for our pleasure.


  34. Diz says:

    btw, after reading comments above & checking, I just noticed for the first time that the buns are all gone after the ghosts visit.


  35. AmyJean Paints says:

    Tea house fox, oh, tea house fox, I wonder where you buy your incense.


  36. hazel says:

    I love Tea House fox, I want his simple life, I wish I could fish and pick oranges everyday, then sing to the ducks with my guitar in the evening.


  37. Kellie says:

    This is awesome. I never noticed my Gmail theme teahouse fox sleep so I Googled “that little tea house fox never sleeps” and got here. Love it!


  38. David says:

    Wonderful ode, and great fun to read all these comments. It did cross my mind that you are all very weird to be so enamoured of a Google theme, but then it struck me that I had gotten here by Googling “tea house theme,” and I realized that I, too, am just as besotted with the little guy and his quiet orchard!


  39. Kelly McBrady says:

    Oh god. I cannot possibly love this more. You’re a fabulous writer. I found this page by looking up the name “Fox Tea house” that i’m thinking of using as my blog name. The funny thing is, I use this theme on Gmail…hmmmmmmm. I’m thinking I may have just pulled it out of my subconscious. Ah well…But I really DO like foxes and tea…..


  40. Cynthia says:

    I also love Teahouse Fox. I am not bored with him and probably never will be. What else should he be doing?


  41. Praxilla says:

    I loved your ode to the Teahouse Fox! Wonderful, and it reminds me of some of Steve Martin’s early works, very witty and clever! I found it because I was searching for the designer of the background, and haven’t found him/her (?) yet. I’d love to see more work from the artist. I adore that fox.

    Now, a question, since you’ve changed and left the fox behind, don’t you miss him? Oh, and btw, he doesn’t miss you, he’s still going about his daily chores as if you had never entered his life! Haha!


  42. Ma Ce says:

    They are tangerines, not oranges.


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