Dec 28, 2012

Winter intensive

The day after Christmas, December 26th we had our first Winter intensive at Issoan Tea School.  For my students it was their first intensive.  We started at 3 pm and ended at 9:30 pm.  In between we sat zazen, practiced warigeiko, reviewed movement in the tearoom,  did five teamae, laid the charcoal shozumi and rebuilt the charcoal fire gozumi.  One student brought a sushi platter and I made ankake udon for everyone.  It was such a success, that we plan to make it an annual event.

Shozumi and Gozumi, laying the initial fire and reubuilding the fire were particular highlights.  We don't often get to do these procedures, and especially gozumi so it was a special treat.  The charcoal is kind of like your timing device to keep your tea gathering on track. The charcoal is made from special wood and cut into specific size and shape to burn for a specified length of time.   It is amazing to hear the singing of the kettle suddenly go silent (and it does seem to be sudden) all at once.  It is also a clue to the guests that it is time to take their leave.

Of the two, gozumi is more difficult because you never know what the fire is going to look like as it burns down.  Many factors contribute to how the fire burns, from the haigata (ash form), to how the initial fire was laid, to shape of the kettle, how big the furo, how deep the ro,  to how long the fire has burned. 

So as a host, the first thing you do when you remove the kettle replenish it is to observe how the fire has burned.  How much charcoal is left?  Did the center collapse?  How much of the dozumi (large front charcoal) has burned?  Then you rearrange the coals to make room for fresh charcoal and lay them in the fire.  You have to use your own judgement whether to use all the charcoal in the basket or only use part of them.

It was a nice fire the students built.  And within 30 seconds of returning the kettle to the fire, we once again heard the matsukaze, the sound of the wind in the pines and the murmuring of the kettle.

7 comments:

  1. I missed being there with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And we missed you. Don't worry, there will be plenty others.

      Delete
  2. I have heard that part of the preparation is to wash the charcoal beforehand. Is this true? What is the reason for washing it? And is there any special way to wash it, or is the goal just to wash it until it is clean? (Will coal ever be clean?) It is fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      Yes, part of the preparation of the charcoal is to wash it. Not with soap and water but to hold it under running water the night before. Rinse until you don't see any particles in the rinse water. Let it dry upright on newspaper. Washing does two things: it rinses the charcoal dust off so that it won't spark as much when it is burning and to add oxygen to the fire as it dries out.

      Delete
  3. Wow, I never would have guessed about adding oxygen. Thank you for the information!

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is also a tradition in summer to take all of the ash from all of the Ro-s and Furo-s and empty it all into large tubs and buckets to wash the ash. pour water into them with the hose. You really have to get you hands (and everything else) dirty and muddy to work it into the water. Then you rinse and start skimming the bubbles/ lye off the top. Let the ash in the tubs settle for a few days then slowly drain off the water above the ash. Once that is done You roll out long mats and place the mud on them to dry in the hot midday sun. Some people have used ovens on low (200 degree) heat to dry the ash(especially if you don't have access to a yard -i.e. apartment dwellers. But don't dry it all the way- leave 1/2 a little damp. then you generously sprinkle sweet spices onto the ash. Cinnamon, five spice, clove, nutmeg are good. Then comes sifting and rubbing the ash. to be deposited in air tight bins. Leave some dry ash to mix in with the damp when doing all of this. This process removes extra charcoal that could not be fished out, bits and pieces of this or that, dust, bits of unburned incense, etc. Once the ash is ready, you clean the empty Furos, and Ros, check for damage etc., then refill them with the intent of doing haigata. When the new ash is first lit with sumi, the room smells fresh and clean. It is a wonderful way to enhance sumi temae---I hope that all of you try it sometime---best wishes---Randy Burks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Randy for your comment and good advice in preparing the ash. I have had the opportunity to do this and it is better done outside as it is a dirty job.

      Margie

      Delete