Nov 28, 2007

The sounds of the tea room

I was sitting in the tearoom the other day listening to the rain on the roof. The tea room is like a sensory deprivation chamber in that it is bare of decoration or furniture. It is quiet and often dimly lighted. The walls are a muted color and the tatami mats straw colored with black borders. Because of this austere setting, anything that happens is highlighted and perhaps magified in importance.

Like the rain on the roof. In the Pacific Northwest, it rains a lot. The weather forecasters have many ways to describe it: rain, heavy rain, rain then clearing, intermittent rain, chance of rain, rain likely, light rain, showers, drizzle, misty…
If you pay attention, there are many sounds of the rain. From the heavy, slow drip of large drops after a sudden shower to the quick patter of a cloud burst.

If you keep your ear tuned to the sounds of the tea room, you will find so many other sounds that you never heard before. Like the way the kettle sounds as it heats the water. Every kettle has its own song. As the water heats, it begins to sing and mummer. You know the water is at the right temperature for making tea when the kettle sounds like “the wind in the pines.”

Another sound you might notice the next time you are at a tea ceremony is the sound of the water as it is poured into the bowl. Hot water sounds completely different than cold water. No matter which bowl it is, the sound is different. Can you hear it?

The soft shuffling of the host as he enters and leaves the tea room, the whisk as it froths the tea, even the plunk of the water ladle as it is put on the stand. Listen, can you hear it?

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