Hatsugama, First Kettle of the Year
What a treat!
Laying the charcoal to heat the water for tea is accomplished with tweezers and a steady hand. The feather on the side is to whisk away ash and debris. The charcoal goes into the fire from largest to smaller piece, ending with the whitened branch of an azalea bush. This final piece reminds me of a bone, offered to the truth of our inevitable passing from this ephemeral world.
As Sensei Todd lowered the kettle onto the fire, he remarked that the kettle had aged beautifully over the years he has used it, and I recalled a time when it was not quite so "ancient" looking.
The meal was delectable and gorgeously presented. Miso soup to begin, followed by an array of sashimi, pickles, rice, potato carved into the wish fulfilling jewel, salmon, dried sardines, lotus root, winter squash, black beans threaded on to pine needles and served with soy sauce, and several other outstanding tidbits. All washed down with saki.
Later with our tea, the 3 tea sweets each had a different sensation in the mouth--crunchy, followed by melt-y, crisp, followed by melt-y, then gelatinous, leaving powdered sugar on the lips.
Shoes outside the tea house.
Tea Student Josh prepares another cup of Cha in the bowl I requested, a Shino piece with the traditional thick mottled white glaze with highlights of orange and pink. This bowl is my perennial favorite and fits so nicely in the hands, warming and calm, yet not to be hidden--this bowl has a quiet, persistent presence.
Sensei has a gorgeous collection of tea ware, and as is customary, each piece we use is passed from visitor to visitor, to be admired.
The tea caddy is slid gently to my dharma sister on the left and never lifted or tilted lest the pretty mountain inside the caddy be disturbed. But this emerald mountain of tea is a bit like Schroinger's Cat--without lifting the lid, the mountain both remains and is flattened.
Reductio ad absurdum!
I however not only lifted the lid but also titled the caddy--the result was tea dust on the tatami….a new scenario.
As always, a visit to Gessha is consciously allowing time to stand still for an afternoon. These days our knees no longer tolerate the discipline of kneeling for 3 hours, or even sitting in cobbler's pose, and as soon as a break presents itself, we stretch legs, stand and wander out into the garden for a moment.
Meanwhile, the flowers in the tokonama are changed so that there is a fresh and vital focus for visual relief, a little break here as well.
The thick tea is slurped and my mouth accepts the multiple sensations of swallowing pond scum, creamed moss, fresh seaweed puree, freshly mown grass with a twist of foam; emerald, heavy and instantly intoxicating.
There is truly nothing like it!
As I pass the tea bowl to the left after my 3 slurps, I know I'm just grinning like a silly woman, but Cha makes it fine to be grinning like a silly woman. I won't apologize!