The rain has started here in the Pacific Northwest and preparations are underway for Robiraki, one of the big tea events of the year. We will be changing from the summer furo season to the winter hearth of the ro season.
Usually it is around the first of November when we open the ro, but Rikyu said to open the ro when the yuzu turns yellow. Yuzu is on of my favorite fruits, not for the fruit, but for the flavor and fragrance of the skin. These smallish citrus ripen about this time of year and the skin is used to flavor sweets and garnish meals. Unfortunately, we cannot get these fruits here. I have a young yuzu tree, but it will be many years before it bears fruit.
For tea people, Robiraki is the new year of tea. Up until the opening of the chatsubo, we have been using last year's tea. So the tea that was harvested in May has been aging in the chatsubo and will be taken out, ground and used for the first time in November. The ceremony for this is called Kuchikiri and it often times will be done in conjunction with the opening of the ro at Robiraki.
This opening of the ro and opening of the chatsubo also can be a spiritual opening, so quite often the scroll in the tokonoma will the the character "kan" 閑 for barrier or gate. What ever difficulties you are having, what is stopping you from having what you want is a barrier. But this kanji character also means gate. It is the way through a barrier to the other side.
My construction manager assures me that I will like it when it is finished. Whenever there are renovations, we just have to live in the mess for awhile, but in the end it will all be worth it. Just trust the process.
I am rather excited about these renovations and I hope to post some other photos as the work goes on.
Meanwhile, classes still being held at Ryokusuido Tea Room.
We have been doing several chanoyu presentations lately. When students make tea in front of an audience, I am usually talking and explaining what is going on in the presentation. Unlike in class, where I am sitting right there, correcting, encouraging and reminding students about the procedures, they are on their own to do the temae. Students call this making tea without a net
It is scary to be out there without sensei to remind you what to do next if you forget. Sometimes you make very stupid mistakes, and strange things happen in temae. I never criticize students when they are presenting tea. Instead, I ask them what did they learn.
Some students can do the temae perfectly in class, but in presentation or chakai, they forget everything completely. They have an out of body experience. Sometimes this is due to stage fright, performance anxiety or nervousness. Sometimes it is doing it for people they don't know -- or even just for people that they do know.
This is where your training comes in. Trust that you and your body know what to do. And if you make a mistake, you will know how to recover.
One student asked me after the last presentation, "How do you trust?" That is a hard thing to answer. You cannot tell someone to JUST "trust the process" when they have no idea how to do it. After thinking a while about this, I expect everyone will have different answers to this question.
For me, trust is a leap of faith. Like mountain climbing, you have to let go of where you are and make a leap to some other place. This is scary and risky. We want and need assurances that we will be okay when we land, we need to know we won't lose what we have when we let go. We need to have control so we can feel safe.
So how do you make that leap of faith that is trust? You have to focus on what is on the other side. How much do you want the outcome that you will risk letting go of where you are? There has to be some greater value to take the risk otherwise why do it? The secret is maintaining deep belief that your initiative will be rewarded.
When I went to study tea in Japan for a year, I didn't know anyone, I didn't speak the language, and I didn't know if I could endure the discipline of it. I had to give up a business, a relationship and a home. But I certainly wanted to go to Japan to study the heart of tea. I wanted it so much that I trusted that I would be okay and that whatever the outcome, the experience of living tea in Japan would be worth it.
My good friends Chuck and Heather have opened their tea shop in Portland, Oregon. They have been in business for a number of years as wholesale tea merchants but now have opened a retail tea shop at 724 NE 22nd Ave. Portland, OR.
There is a "tea island" full of samples where you can see and smell the different kind of teas they offer and a wonderful tea bar where they'll cheerfully brew up any number of teas you care to taste. All the teas they sell are loose leaf or cakes and they'll give you advice on the best way to brew, store and sample the wonderful, wide world of teas.
In the shop part of the store they sell all kinds of tea pots, storage canisters, brewing devices, empty teabags tea bowls and more. Stop by and sample their selection of fine loose leaf tea: white, green, black, oolong, flavored, pu-erh.
For those of you not in Portland, they have an online website: The Jasmine Pearl and tell your favorite retailer that they need to stock tea from The Jasmine Pearl.
I want to acknowledge and thank Janelle for her donation to Issoan Tea School. A box arrived the other day that contained 3 kimono (summer, hitoe and awase), 4 obi (3 summer and one fukuro), 3 juban, 2 hada juban sets, 4 obi jime and obi age sets, plus himo, obi ita, obi makura and 8 pair of tabi. It is a complete kimono wardrobe for tea for the entire year. Thank you so much Janelle. It will be put to good use by the students and we will think of you everytime we see them worn.
In other news, Issoan Tea Room is closed for the month of October for renovations. When they are complete, I'll post some photos.
It is that time of year again, when the days are getting shorter and you feel the chill in the morning. I just heard the first flock of geese honking and flying overhead yesterday. For some people it is a rather sad time of year because summer has ended, but for some people, it is the best time of year. Crisp fall days, abundant harvest, and the coming winter to look forward to are all part of the changing season.
In chanoyu, October is a transitional month from furo to ro season. It is when the tea leaf jar from last year is getting down to the bottom and all that are left are broken leaves. The furo moves closer to the guests to the center of the tatami mat in anticipation of the ro season. There is a nostalgic lingering feeling of farewell.that the a Japanese call nagori.
October is also called the most wabi month and it is the time we see the cracked and broken utensils that have been lovingly repaired. Images of frost, wind, colored leaves, chestnuts, autumn grasses, wild mushrooms and mountain paths are good seasonal themes to use for gomei and chakai.
And one of my favorite little tidbits about this season is the Japanese folk tale kimamori or the guardian persimmon. That is, one last fruit is left on the tree as a talisman to ensure that the harvest for next year is abundant.