Mar 2, 2008

The nature of things

As I went for my daily walk in the park the other day, I saw a red-tailed hawk hunting. I love these birds and I often see them circling overhead in the park or on the freeway. As I walked in the park, new growth was everywhere, from buds on the trees to daffodils and crocus coming up.

The world is renewing itself after the winter. Seasons change and with it we change, too. I find myself getting up earlier and having more energy. I am wearing brighter colors in my clothing and am more active.

In the tea room we mark and note seasonal changes. The tea flowers we arrange are never store bought flowers, but only those that are in season. This makes it difficult in the winter months, but thank goodness I live in a place where the winter camellias are abundant.

The simple arrangement of flowers for tea is called chabana – it’s different from the familiar and stylized ikebana. Chabana is often called thrown in flowers, in that it looks very haphazard, but one of the rules of Rikyu is to “arrange the flowers as if they were growing in the field.”

Like many things in chanoyu, it is actually harder to do than it looks. First of all, we need to know what flowers look like growing in the field. I remember picking flowers and bringing them inside to arrange and trying to make them look like what I thought they should look like. My sensei said to me that obviously, I did not look at the flower before I picked it because I was trying to make it face the opposite way it had grown, to fit my own idea of what it was supposed to be.

The flowers are teaching me a lesson about the nature of things. Like our children, or students, we need to observe how they are rather than how we think they should be and work with their nature, not against it.

Finally, I picked a flower once and it was facing the wrong way, but I put it in the vase anyway. By the end of the tea gathering, because of the warmth and the light – the flower had turned itself around to face the other way.

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