Sauna Tea

Sauna Tea
Third tea ceremony of 2020: The answer is 42.

I had planned to do this week’s tea ceremony at an event hosted by a local resort. The event was cancelled, leaving me without a weekly tea ceremony location. I was a little panicked, since this is only the third week and already I could potentially fail at my self-imposed once a week schedule for bringing tea ceremony to different places. My brilliant husband suggested I do this week’s ceremony in our sauna – while it warms up, before full-on sauna temperature!

Nestled in a stand of trees, a simple structure with a wood-burning stove, the sauna is a place of peace and calm and contemplation for us. I dreamed up the sauna, and Doug built it. I had never thought to do tea in the sauna. But bringing tea ceremony into the space we use and share for “hot zen” (less effort than hot yoga!) made me smile.

Since the sauna is a curious place to do a tea ceremony, and since it was just me and Doug for tea, I decided to wear something a little unorthodox for ceremony. The silk fabrics and patterns of traditional Japanese garments are art in themselves, so instead of wearing my tea practice jacket, I wore a beautiful haori. Haori are men’s wear, considered neither appropriate for women nor tea ceremony. Breaking these social mores today also made me smile.

Snowfall yesterday was about eight inches, so while Doug shoveled the path to the sauna and started a fire, I prepped tea materials. Today’s temae, obon gyou, a tray ceremony meaning iku, to go. The tokanoma scroll was an image of a single pheasant and white camellia. The number of birds on the prints I have been using for ceremony has by chance matched the number of guests…and today, no exception. One guest (Doug), one golden pheasant. A small hand-made vase purchased at a shop in Evanston held a few ends of white pine. (The flower struggle is real.) The tea sweet, a molases yokan from Japan. The tea, beautiful, delicious Nara matcha.

The pleasure of doing tea for one person, especially when that person is my best friend, is so rich. The whole time I am filled with awe, happiness, and of course gratitude. Today, tea was a celebration of all that Doug makes possible for me. How long have we known each other? Next week will be 42 years since our first date.

With love and gratitude,
Michelle

An Auspicious Day

Anniversary Tea
Second tea ceremony of 2020: This afternoon I had the pleasure of hosting a Japanese Tea Ceremony at the home of a lovely couple celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. We shared a simple obon temae (tray service) called shin, which means truth.

The chawan (bowls) were two from my personal collection. They are vintage bowls. I know little of their history other than that they were purchased at a Japanese flea market. I do know that they make beautiful tea. The matcha today, Nara Matcha. With tea, Japanese yokan. After tea, dried persimmon slices.

The simple, unadorned, brightly laquered natsume (tea caddy), also from my personal collection, is one my tea teacher purchased new for me in Japan. I rarely use it, because it feels so special. Bringing it out for this ten-year anniversary tea felt appropriate.

This time of year I struggle to find flowers from the property for tea arrangements. Lucky me, Forget-Me-Not Flowers is next door to the teashop. I purchased alstromeria, which symbolizes devotion. For the ceremony, they accompanied a print of two cranes beside a body of water. This seemed especially touching since the anniversary couple’s home overlooks a big lake.

After tea, we shared conversation about tea ceremony and practice. I was reminded of a conversation with a friend on New Year’s eve, the short of which was, “discipline or regret.” Tea, for me, is a way to practice discipline.

Happy anniversary! Thank you for bringing me and tea into your home on such an auspicious day!

New Year’s Tea 2020


First tea ceremony of 2020: New year’s day, Shorewood, IL, near the place of my birth, at the home of my love’s family.

This morning’s tea began just after 10a central time. We didn’t party too hard last night, so early rise to prepare was easy for me. We set up in the living room. With three guests, Doug helped as ohonto (assistant). We opened a new matcha, from Nara, Japan. So vibrant, so delicious! This first ceremony of the year was kakoi datte, “barrier presentation.” Not what I had originally planned, but turned out to be a lovely ceremony, which everyone enjoyed.

This past week, I had been gathering all the materials necessary for travelling tea, trying to put together a set of basic tools that can be left in a kit. Like being pregnant and having the hospital overnight bag packed and ready, I thought this would make the ambitious goal of weekly pop-up tea ceremony slightly easier to manage. I have a check list! I have a couple handy totes! I thought I had everything. I had planned to do Nishiki datte, a four-panel presentation. While preparing all the dogu for ceremony this morning, I discovered I had forgotten to pack the box with the chabako boards. Eesh. Good lesson….tea is about being prepared and present. Hmmmm. Some work to do here in 2020.

Tea flowers are an important part of ceremony. Selecting and arranging them is an art in itself. Simplicity, proportion, significance, so much attention for a part of the ceremony that can easily be overlooked. For today, I kept a blossom off a live pointsetta that was headed for disposal at the end of this holiday season, and placed it with a cutting from the white pine in the back yard where we are staying. I feel like a beginner with tea flowers. I was very happy the pine cutting had such beautiful presence. I just let it do its pine thing without fussing with it too much.

Two of the three guests this morning had attended ceremony before, one had never seen it. While tea ceremony takes about 30 minutes for a group this size, we always allow time after for contemplation or conversation. Today was no exception. We sat for almost an hour after, sharing connections and history and the pleasure being still, together. Doing the first tea of 2020 with Doug’s family, near our birth town felt right. Ah, the gift of tea.

With gratitude,
Michelle

Tea Is For Everyone!

Tea Ceremony
My name is Michelle. I own a teashop. I love Japanese tea ceremony.

After a 20 year search for a tea teacher, I began my training with Roo Sensei. That was nine years ago. During that time, I have trained almost weekly, on my own and with Roo Sensei’s oversight. I am a slow student. Fortunately, our tea lineage’s motto is, “tea is for everyone.” Even for slow Americans, like me.

In 2020, I want to do more tea. This might prove to be a bit more ambitious than I first thought. Pop-up tea ceremonies once a week AND regular tea practice/private ceremony at the teashop will likely double the number days I do tea. Yeah!

I want to bring tea to people who might not have ever thought about tea as ceremony, or who might not have a chance to get to a place that does tea ceremony. I want to put it into public and private places. I want to dispel thoughts that the use of the word ceremony implies a religious affiliation. Japanese tea ceremony is secular.

The underlying philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony includes harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. Who doesn’t want to experience these in their life? Practicing these ideals in tea ceremony is my gift to me, and I want to share that gift with others.