2020 Closure

On a cold Monday, November 16, I practiced tea for the last time outdoors, in 2020.

It is one of my greatest joys, to spend time with my daughter. I love that Moira was the person I shared my first outdoor winter tea in 2020 with (NP Gazebo), and she is the person I shared the last outdoor winter tea of 2020 with. We enjoyed sweet potato yokan and matcha gifted by Roo, in full on winter gear. Moira – my weather-ready guest!

I know I can do ceremony outside, in the cold, but I am not sure how inclined I am to continue in the freezing weather. So I will continue my practice indoors for a while.

On December 2, I practiced two obon temae on my own. And today I practiced the final three ceremonies to meet the goal I had set for myself a year ago.

While it wasn’t the year of tea that I had originally dreamed up, tea has been a lovely anchor in 2020. And while not an even flow of one ceremony per week, 52 was met.

With gratitude,

Michelle

Inside a Jar…

Sun Nov 15, 2020 1:00p

The weather changed dramatically for this weekend of tea in the barn. Still carrying the last tea ceremonies’ warmth in my heart, I was convinced that more tea in the barn was a good idea. And, though very cold, it was indeed a good idea, for my tea teacher, Roo came up to practice with me!

We did four temae: Chabitsu sou, Roo served me tea; Chabitsu gyuo, I served Roo tea; Chabitsu shi, Roo served two bowls of tea; and Chabako kakoi datte shi, I served two bowls of tea. If I am counting ceremonies, and I am, these are numbers 44-47 of this year.

With the barn closed up, we felt protected from the violent winds and heavy rain, but the 35 degree temperature we could not keep out. We practiced tea for several hours in our coats, hats, and many layers of leggings and socks.

The scroll was a gift to Roo from the temple of her tea teacher, Yamada Sensei. Roo translates here:

:壺中日月長, or “ko-chuu-jitsu-getsu-naga (shi).

The literal meaning is, “Inside a jar, time grows long.”

This saying is from a Chinese folk tale about (if understand correctly) a guy who somehow went into an old medicine-seller’s medicine jar (called a “tsubo” in Japanese–the shape is like the oblong thick-tea container used in tea ceremony). Inside the jar he found an enchanted world, and he was warmly welcomed by those who lived there. He thought he spent 10 days, but in fact when he emerged some 10 years had passed.

The Zen interpretation of this tale that is embedded in the saying on the scroll is that even when your circumstances are very narrow and restricted, if you have a correct attitude in your heart, you can be very comfortable and enjoy the passing of time.

Apropos of 2020.

With gratitude,

Michelle

More Barn Tea

Sat Nov 7, 2020 2:00p

This warm weather weekend is such a gift, all I want to do is tea! So, more tea in our sweet old barn!

This afternoon’s guests were a multi-generation family of three artists with deep awareness of tea aesthetic. When serving tea by myself for more than two guests I have a wee bit of anxiety. Without an assistant, ohanto, I must prepare AND serve tea myself. While this might not seem to be that big of a deal, when the only thing you are doing is preparing tea, every detail counts. This little bit of extra time required to whisk multiple bowls means that the water in the tetsubin is cooling. I worry that this slight temperature drop will make for a less than perfect third bowl of tea. The first bowl is always steaming with heat and matcha aroma. The second bowl is still very hot, and generally easier to drink, as it has cooled slightly. But the third bowl can be just enough too cool to meet my expectations for a perfect bowl of matcha. It is a balance of meeting the guests’ needs and preparing the best possible tea experience.

I am reminded of the bond that a shared experience can create. I am grateful to offer tea to people who are already connected to one another, and want to enrich their relationship with a shared experience.

Ichi go ichi e…this day only once.

With gratitude,

Michelle

Reprieve

Sat, Nov 7, 2020 11a

This morning I shared tea with one guest, a gentle soul open to the comfort and beauty of the moment… tea.

It was a warm, sunny morning, about 65 degrees, with a gentle wind, and autumn leaves tapping against the barn roof and walls as they fell. So very different from the the cold, wet, windy October weather of the past few weeks. Wearing a mask, and observing other health and safety precautions, this barn ceremony was a protected outdoor experience!

The temae, chabitsu, with sweet potato yokan and Nara matcha. The tea flowers, burgundy mums and past their prime butterfly bush blossoms. Everything else belongs to the barn!

Rich and sweet, this opportunity was such a gift.

With gratitude,

Michelle

Return

Saturday, October 24, 12:30p

Oddly, in all the beautiful, warm weather of our northern Michigan summer, I never once did tea outside. And then, in October, as the cold returned, I did the first outdoor ceremony since March, for someone other than me and my quarantea buddy.

The day began with rain that gradually turned to snow and scrapple with temperatures just below 40F. Like the winter ceremony last January, nearly everything was prepped at home, prior to heading to the site. It took several trips to carry everything to the site: tarp, blankets, seiza benches, umbrellas, thermos of hot water, large tub with all the tea dogu. There is no level ground at the site. We set up on the flattest place possible, still having about a 10-15 degree slope.

A serene location about a quarter mile walk off the main road, up a hill, on private land in Leelanau County, the site is breathtaking. Wooded land with a gentle opening amid the trees, the space feels sacred, and I felt as though I should only speak in whispers. Amazingly, the precipitation stopped while we were doing tea.

Today’s guests were a lovely young woman and her mother at the site of a memorial tree planted to honor the ashes of their recently deceased father/husband. I cannot think of a better way to return to sharing tea.

With gratitude,

Michelle

Spring Came Slowly

Quarantea 5 (April 9, 2020)

Nishiki-datte sou, a chabako temae, or presentation, that uses a set of four panels tied together. The futa or box lid is used a a rest for the tea implements.

  • Tea – Matcha Harmony (organic matcha)
  • Sweet – candied ume
  • Chawan – my pine and gold tiny Kyoto bowl
  • Chabako – persimmon-colored with black lacquer
  • Natsume – deep chocolate brown lacquerware
  • Zutsu – robin’s egg blue matching furadashi and chakin zutsu
  • Chasen zutsu – wooden
  • Tetsubin – heavy hive pot
  • Kensui – locally made by Northport Pottery

Enjoying the moss covered stone just a bit more before returning it to its creekside home, I added the only flowers blooming on our property on this chilly morning. I do not know what these are called. The were hitchhikers in the soil when we transplanted daisies from Dan and Amanda’s farm several seasons ago. How lucky for me (and tea!).

With gratitude,

Michelle

Barrier

Quarantea 6 (April 10, 2020)

Kakoi-datte sou, is a chabako temae that means barrier. During the ceremony, the chabako is set on its side and the zutsu, tea and whisk are set inside, protected from wind. Today, although I practiced tea inside, the world outside was cold and windy – appropriate weather for a barrier presentation.

  • Tea – Matcha Harmony
  • Sweet – candied ume
  • Chawan – my pine and gold tiny Kyoto bowl
  • Natsume – deep chocolate brown lacquerware
  • Chabako – persimmon-colored with black lacquer
  • Zutsu – robin’s egg blue matching furadashi and chakin zutsu
  • Chasen zutsu – wooden
  • Tetsubin – heavy hive pot
  • Kensui – locally made by Northport Pottery

Tea flowers…periwinkle-colored flowers bravely emerging in the April chill, placed in a small hand-made vase, set atop smooth basalt rocks. Thank you, Jennifer, for this tiny vase, so perfect for these tiny flowers.

With gratitude,

Michelle

Mist

Quarantea 4 (April 8, 2020)

This morning, the orchards, cloaked in grey mist, set the mood perfectly for this chabako temae, kasumi-datte “mist presentation.” It is the first chabako temae, sou. It is traditionally done in the springtime, although, we practice it all year round. The presentation uses a single panel. The implements are arranged on the futa (box lid) so as to resemble a bird’s wing in flight.

  • Tea – Matcha Harmony
  • Sweet – dry sweet from Japan
  • Chawan – sweet little chrysanthemum bowl with a hairline crack
  • Natsume – deep chocolate brown lacquerware
  • Chabako – Persimmon-colored with black lacquer; robin’s egg blue matching furadashi and chakin zutsu
  • Chasen zutsu – wooden
  • Tetsubin – heavy hive pot
  • Kensui – locally made by Northport Pottery

This temae’s flowers are a heavy, moss-covered stone found creekside on my morning walk around our property. Even though I’ve misted the stone generously, it could not stay in the house for long. I followed a slug trail from the dish to the edge of the tablerunner, to find a sadly dried out slug. Back to the creek with the mossy rock and its unhappy inhabitants.

With gratitude,

Michelle

Thinking About It…

Truth be told, I get immeasurably more pleasure from practicing tea than I do from posting about it. I have sifted tea; selected dogu; arranged flowers; prepared sweets; lit the incense, and practiced. But I have put little to no effort into capturing ceremony in photos or in writing. Mostly I make tea for me and my quarantea buddy, Doug; and it has just been about the practice.

I have found that I feel free when there is no one watching; no one waiting to see the photos, or read my notes. Tea practice is my personal, private pleasure. Then, I remember I began this year with the intention of sharing tea ceremony in different locations, with different people, getting out of my comfort zone. We are not alone, even though I am most comfortable there. Tea is about relationship. Everything exists within the context of relationship.

So, I am lightly updating a backlog of ceremonies, and mentally preparing to return to the plan. I have three April ceremonies I wrote about, photographed, but haven’t posted yet. Soon….

With gratitude,

Michelle

  • April (after Q6) – 3 practices/17 (kakoi datte gyou)
  • May – 5 practices/22 (chabitsu sou; obon shin)
  • June – 6 practices/28 (kakoi datte gyou)
  • July – no tea practice
  • August – 2 practices/30 (obon sou,obon gyou)
  • September – 3 practices/33 (chabitsu sou, gyou, shin)
  • October – 7 practices/40 (kasume datte, nshiki datte, chabitsu gyou)

Truth

Quarantea 3

As I set up for tea this morning, near but not in the snug, this piece of original art on our wall, a watercolor of river irises by Doug Racich, proudly bears the quality of a scroll in a tokonoma. Tea flowers are getting easier! On a trip to Seattle for a tea festival several years ago, one of our wholesalers hosted a Japanese tea ceremony demo. Afterward, in chatting with the teaist, I asked why there were no flowers for the ceremony. She gently explained to me that if I looked closely, the fan she had hung in the tea space had beautiful flowers painted on it. Why would we want to insult the artist by placing another floral arrangement in the same space? So, in looking around my tea space today, I realized there was no need to stress over flowers for tea. I would never want to insult the artist!

  • Tea – Matcha Harmony
  • Sweet – round ohigashi
  • Chawan – Korean-style grey bowl
  • Natsume – plain crimson laquerware from Japan
  • Obon – Swedish tray
  • Tetsubin – heavy hive pot
  • Kensui – locally made by Northport Pottery

I am working my way through all the ceremonies I have learned over the years. On this third day of April, my third quarantea, the ceremony was the third one I learned, obon shin. According to Roo sensei, it means truth. Every time I practice this ceremony, I think about that word, truth. Sometimes I try out synonyms: correct, right, real, honest, what is… I do not know why this temae is called truth. It seems that every tea ceremony is about truth.

Reflecting on tea today, this morning’s ceremony truly felt like all those words, correct, right, real, honest, what is, truth. Shifting work/life schedules has allowed me to take a closer look, again at what is my truth.

With gratitude,

Michelle