becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness
in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like
everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing,
yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Hello, fellow tea lovers - Wow, my blogging has slowed dramatically! There are a number of reasons, but one is that I am making space for some new things in my life. My tea studies in Chado continue to grow and delight me, and I have recently begun a journey of facilitating writing workshops. Tea and writing are such good friends! I will continue to blog, though less frequently. I love hearing from you and appreciate your participation in this conversation about tea and life around it. Thank you!
I write about the power of
trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity
because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write
about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and
in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.
Blustery and damp on my walk to work this morning. Makes me want to cozy up in front of the kettle, watch the steam rise, and make tea. Tomorrow I'll have the time to do that leisurely, like the photo above. Today in the office, it's the photo below. Both have a calming effect on my psyche. The quote on the calendar says, "Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path." ~Thich Nhat Hanh How do you navigate the transition into the darker hours?
My tea plant (Cami, get it? Short for camellia sinensis) has been covered in tea flowers! I took these photos several days ago; they're now starting to fade. I think tea flowers are beautiful and I like to bring them inside (see bottom photo). Tea flowers are discouraged in commercial production because when the plant is producing flowers its energy is towards making fruit and seeds rather than producing more leaf. (Most tea plants are propagated by slips (cuttings) rather than seeds). On my balcony, I love to let my tea plant go crazy with blossoms. Enjoy the photos.
I shared this photo on Facebook recently, and for several people, it conjured images of Oz. Isn't it cool when other people see things we don't? I hadn't considered the Oz comparison and now I see it so clearly. The yellow brick road, a red dress (instead of shoes). It was indeed a magical experience, walking into the leaves and looking down to see the hem of my red dress framed by such vibrant gold. One of those standstill moments.
And like Oz, I walked on into reality. The truth that magic is everywhere in the everyday. That joys abound and that I must solve my own problems. That friends help each other along, and that sometimes the magic is seeing things in a different way.
Changing of Seasons Have you noticed the changing light as we tilt toward Fall? The afternoon sun comes in at a slant for us, and it's beautiful. I love noticing the light and where it shows itself in our house throughout the year. Right now, it's lighting up the hanging scroll in my 2-mat tatami room. This is a new space and I'm so happy with it! I can practice my tea skills and keep my knees and ankles fit for sitting on the floor. The scroll above shows the characters for Wa, Kei: Harmony and Respect. It's the first half of Wa-Kei-Sei-Jaku, the four principles of tea (Chanoyu, Japanese Tea Ceremony). Upcoming Events I am very happy to share that I'll be participating in the following two events! Bowl-Style Brewing Class at Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants This Sunday, Sept 20th at noon, Portland, OR. Registration. We'll practice one of the oldest, simplest and most profound styles of brewing. Nothing but tea leaf, a bowl and hot water. And of course, you. Northwest Tea Festival Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd and 4th, Seattle, WA. Information. Along with my Sensei, Marjorie Yap, I'm teaching a class on How to Be a Guest at a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Also happy to be participating in the Wu-Wo Tea Brewing. This is a GREAT event, full of classes, tea tastings, tea things for sale and wonderful people. It's one of the highlights of my year. Happy Autumn!
I've been thinking a lot about light and shadow, how they support and usurp one another, constantly sharing and shifting. Light that warms us, feeds us, burns us, blinds us, that we both seek and hide from. Shadow that cools us, invites us, hides us, scares us, that we both seek and hide from. I'm trying to be intentional about their roles in my life and writing, labeling neither good nor bad. Just like the sun and moon each have a role to play, so do light and shadow, no matter how literal or metaphorical we get.
I'm poem hunting these days. Finding, tagging, cataloging poems that say just the right thing for just the right time. It's harder than you might imagine, and I love it. It's part of a new project I'm developing. No, not really. The truth is that it's part of a birthing process, to myself and to a new being in my life. Not literally, but I am in the final days before the big push to bring about something special, at least to me. It will be small and manageable, and with the hope of BIG GOODNESS for the people that feel called to join me. More to come on that, but for now, one of those poems: Love Calls Us to the Things of This World ~Richard Wilbur
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;
Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks
From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual of every blessed day,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”
Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
“Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
I recently spent several days visiting family, and to my great delight my niece wanted to have lots of tea parties, including Wu-Wo. Be still, my heart! Above, she set the tablescape for our Wu-Wo gathering, including her elephant that I brought from Rwanda.
This ladybug tea set worked great for Wu-Wo brewing. We brewed Silver Needles (white), an Oriental Beauty (heavily oxidized oolong), and an Alishan (green, fragrant oolong).
Then my niece planned and executed her own British-inspired tea party.
The centerpiece below. (She loves painting.)
And, the snacks: chocolate covered pretzels, Smarties, pie crust with cinnamon and sugar, and "Fruit by the Foot". We drank black tea and it worked well with this creative menu. :-)
Fun, fun times making memories! I'm grateful to have a fellow tea party lover in the family.
Five Cups Five cups wait Like wise ones Patient They know their time To be useful Will come And they may need The strength to Serve it up hot Or to allow Things to cool off Breathing Maybe their touch In your hand Is enough The delicate curve The spiral Into eternity ----------- I'm celebrating today! I am officially on sabbatical. Like these five cups, the next five weeks are waiting for their time to be useful, to be touching, to heat and to cool. I will be spending my hours in reflection, writing, visiting with family and friends, drinking tea and playing with the DH.
A friend recently sent me this gift of vintage linens. Pure delight! They inspire me to make everyday things beautiful. I want to know more of the woman behind these articles. Who is/was she that so artfully and skillfully embroidered this cloth?
Did she enjoy tea? How old is/was she? What's her name and where did she live? These linens bring to mind my own grandmother's hands. I am fortunate to have some pieces made by her, including an embroidered bed quilt. I remember learning to embroider with Grandma as my guide. I am a little nostalgic and sad that I didn't keep up that skill.
Look at the great detail and lovely color selection of this flower basket. Who taught this woman her handicraft? Did she teach others?
Did she work alone or with sisters or friends? I may never know the answers, but I take a moment to send my gratitude and respect to the woman whose mind, heart and hands so carefully worked these into beauty.
I'm spoiled. We have such good food here in the Portland area. And thanks to Gabe Rosen and Kina Voelz, we have two more fun and distinct places to eat. The duo, their chef and the hard working team recently openedNoraneko, a small ramen shop in the Central Eastside Industrial District (within walking distance ofOMSI). Delicious foods and a menu that is "just right" - not too big and not too small. The best part? At least for me - the tea selection!
The pleasures of friends and well-brewed tea
Disclosure: I happen to be friends with the woman who designed the tea service, and she did a fabulous job! She started by curating a small but wide-ranging selection of teas. See the menu here (scroll down). Then she trained staff on how to brew the teas properly. Honestly, I don't expect good tea when I go out and it's such a fine thing to find it!
Noraneko is under the Hawthorne Bridge at 1430 SE Water Avenue. Open daily 11 - 2; Happy hour 4 - 6.
Tea served in a gaiwan
And just last week, the same enterprising couple opened Kotori. It's a yakitori, a Japanese style of food specializing in grilled chicken and seasonal veggies. My favorite thing about this place, and there are many, is that it's taken a gravel, underused corner and turned it into something fun. Show up with a couple of friends and be adventurous! On the corner (SE 9th and Pine) near the parent restaurant Biwa. Open through late September on Thursdays - Sundays, 4 pm until sunset.
Opening the gate to new possibilities... I've been away at a writing retreat. I'm learning to facilitate writing circles following the Women Writing for (a) Change principles and practices. I love it! I spent last week with 12 kindred spirits, nestled in a beautiful retreat center in Cincinnati, OH. We wrote of our experiences of being women in this world. We practiced deep listening and responding to one another's writing in safe and nurturing ways. This style of writing in community is about honoring the path of each voice in the circle. The intention is to encourage and lift up each person's words. The experience is not at all like a critique-based workshop.
The local hosts were so thoughtful! They prepared our rooms with flowers and candles. I added some tea things and had a very peaceful writing corner.
Hours spent writing and listening are a gift, and I learned that I also needed to get out of my head and into my body each afternoon. I went for walks and runs. The surrounding community is full of historic homes and inviting benches.
I am still discerning where this path will take me and am very excited to be on this journey! (I still have my day job, too.) I know this path will include heart, bravery, the help of others, and tea!
I've mentioned that Oregon is berry heaven, right? At the Farmer's Market last weekend, I was surprised and delighted to find currants, red and black. I've been eating them out of hand all week and enjoying their tart, but distinct flavors.
The black currants are plumper. To me, they have a mild anise flavor in addition to the berry tartness. It's unexpected in a berry, and I like it. The red currants are bright pops of pucker with a finish of sweetness. They're just so cute! I was also pleased to find this chimney cake, or Kürtőskalács. I had only learned of their existence a few days before, but the baker was sold out. What good fortune, to find these being sold at my neighborhood Farmer's Market! They're fun and delicious. It's a sweet yeast bread, not really a cake, and makes a beautiful display. They're cooked on a rolling pin device.
Today is the summer solstice, the "longest day of the year," thanks to the Western Hemisphere's deepest tilt toward the sun. The sun rises and sets at its northernmost point along the horizon. It's funny, really, as the solstice is considered the start of summer and yet it's also the tipping point towards winter. From here, we lose a bit of light each day even as the temperatures continue to rise. That's because the land and oceans are still warming.
Humans are deeply connected to the shifting seasons and the moon phases, even though most of us don't acknowledge these subtle patterns in our life. It's something I aspire to observe. I rose extra early to enjoy a solstice sunrise tea. I confess - it wasn't easy dragging myself out of bed - but I'm so glad I did! I took my chabako kit (a box with all the necessary implements for making matcha in the traditional style) to one of our garden plots. It was cool and quiet. The robins were beginning to hop around and the bees were still asleep inside of the hollyhocks.
I tried to follow the forms and practices of this tea procedure as best I could. I was both host and guest, which is unusual in a Japanese Tea Ceremony and required some adjustments. When I said, "otemae chodai itashimasu," thank you for making this bowl of tea, I was thanking all the people involved and the earth's generosity in bringing me this bowl of tea. It's an interesting contemplative experience if you dive into the thought of being both host and guest.
I enjoyed being alone and spent some time journaling. Both tea and writing nourish me. About an hour into the morning, the sun broke through the clouds, and everything began to sparkle.
By the time I departed, about two hours after I began, the bees were humming and the sounds of human activity were floating in my direction. It was a time to go. A wonderful morning.