A Tea Gathering was held for good friends who had been helpful and supportive throughout the last year. This was a way to thank them for all that they had done on my behalf. Much planning went into this event. It was going to have a Vegan meal served, special items would be presented for them to examine, and it was held at a time that they could all arrive…3:30p.m. March 12th is after the Hina Dolls Festival and before the Vernal Equinox. I was watching the Thundercloud Plum tree in the front yard in hopes that it would not bloom too early. If it had then I would not be able to present the scroll in the waiting room. It also happened that this was going to be a night of the full Moon– and Day Light Savings time. We were to meet at what I thought would be late afternoon to dusk. But after barely setting my clocks forward at the last minute, it made the Chakai much earlier. The five guests were greeted after they arrived and washed their hands at the water basin. Then they filed in to find their seats. The scroll in the Machiai (waiting room) was a reproduction of one painted by Sotatsu (1600’s). The main scroll was “Setsu-Gekka” (Snow-Moon-Flower) written by the Calligrapher Toki Koka. During this month sets of three things are featured and I did my best to include this aspect. I greeted them all and thanked them for coming. Next came Shozumi- the first laying of the charcoal. This time I was smart enough to install my window mounted air conditioner to abate the heat given off by all burners fired on the stove. The kitchen was cool and refreshing. Shozumi was done with a Marujoku-dana (Tea shelf) and I used an ‘office letter basket’ that I found at a shop. Best Sumi-tori basket ever! The incense box (kogo) was a small salt cellar that was used for other ritual purposes and was known to one of the guests. It had been lovingly restored from damage and was made of creamy honey onyx. I had sifted all of the ash in the furo to see if that would help keep the embers lit- it worked!
Next came the meal. Cooking a Vegan meal was a challenge for me since cooking is something that I need to practice. Daniel Cantu gave me lots of ideas and donated a green coconut vegetable curry to go with the Nimono course. It was delicious! I need to take lessons from him. He has a website that should be visited and explored. The Mukozuke dish had three lobes on it and Tofu nestled inside on a cabbage leaf with wakame seaweed and ginger pickles. Umeboshi pickle lay on the other side. Straw mushrooms and Mochi were in the Miso soup. The Nimono course was wheat meat triangles with Kabocha Pumpkin and Cilantro sprigs with a Lemon twist.
The Hassun was served on a silver tray. Two Olives each and fried Lotus root served with Champagne and Sparkling Cider. Then came Pickles and hot water. I coached them as we went through its use. Then came the brake (nakadachi) while I changed the room from scroll to flowers, checked the fired, swept the room, rearranged their cushions, and made ready for Usucha.
The guests re-entered after washing their hands to find only a single yellow Tulip and Pussy willows in a green Kake-hanaire. I served homemade ‘Omogashi’ in the form of Peach buds with a ‘sun shaft’ of candied Citrus peel. Usucha went somewhat smoothly. The kettle actually simmered with the sound of ‘Wind in the Pines’! (That was a sound that I had not heard in a long time at a Chakai due to my efforts and learning curve of heating water.) I served 9 bowls of usucha with three bowls featured in a famous ranking of three; “Ichi-Raku, Ni Hagi, San-Garatsu”. Four guests had two bowls of tea each! Good sign! I used an Ohi raku tea bowl that I favored, a Hagi Tea bowl with five finger prints left by the maker, and a simple Karatsu bowl with mountain and Pine motif. A tri-lobed Futaoki lid rest was used. The Natsume was ‘Haru-gusa'(spring grasses) and the Chashaku was made from Persian Almond. It is the very first tree to flower in this valley and is usually found with snow on its petaled branches. It’s poetic name is “Hatsu-Hana” (First flower- since it literally is the first one in this valley during late Winter/ early Spring) My guests enjoyed themselves and after we finished, they sauntered away as I waved them off. Then I made myself a bowl of Tea. Things are getting better.
Thanks to my honored Guests– Sandro Larson, Karen Larson, Randy (Dook Larson, Laura McCullough, and Charles Galway for coming!
The making of fresh Shiro-an (white sweet bean paste) for the Chakai.by