Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Japanese Tea in a Japanese Garden

I’ve never been good at learning things. I’ve never really had to be. I’ve just been able to pick things up as I go along, sort of figure them out on my own and keep moving on. So when the occasion comes when I have to learn something, I want to do it on my own. I don’t really like people watching me.

When I learned to sew I couldn’t start with the easy thing. I had to start with a long-sleeved, slippery satin, buttoned blouse with an inset collar. It was the hardest thing. There are no baby steps for this girl. I get bored by them and frustrated that I’m not moving faster, faster, faster. I should be able to do this. I’m the one that picks things up easily. I’m surprised I didn’t go for a tailored, velvet overcoat with a zip-in satin lining.

Being able to do so many things without having to learn them has a downside a big as barn. It means I didn’t learn how to learn. So I’ve found ways to avoid doing things that I didn’t want to do for the first time when people would be there to watch me doing them. I didn’t rollerblade in Florida with Wendy. I didn’t order food in Bologna when I was feeling a little bit hungry. I didn’t go to the bathroom in the woods until I was over 40 and my best friend said it was the only choice for the next four hours. Even then I made her demonstrate.

Slowly though I’m outgrowing this silly, childish trait.

I want to go to a Japanese garden and learn the tea ceremony.

Yeah, in some ways it’s taking on that tailored, velvet overcoat with a zip-in satin lining again, except there’s no way I can do that alone. I would have to have help every step of the way to even get started. That’s the part I like. Japanese tea in a Japanese garden and me finally kicking back to admit that I have to learn something from somebody else.

That’s freedom, discipline, relaxation, and serenity.
−me strauss Letting me be.


Trée said...

Oh my, how I would like to go too. I've read much about the tea ceremony but I must say the essence of it, on paper, escapes me. Yet, still, I want to see what they see, to feel what that feel, to know what they experience. Besides, if it all just goes over my head, we still have the tea. Right? :-)

ME Strauss said...

Yeah, if it all goes over our heads we've still got the tea. I'll sneak some cookies in inside my pockets too, just in case we need them.


mergrl said...

ok you two will just have to come here :0) at our botanical gardens we have a japanese festival every year and I believe they offer a course on the traditional tea ceremony :0)

wonderful post as always my friend (hugs)

ME Strauss said...

So will you join us, Trace? I need to know how many cookies to pack. Thanks for the nice words. (Hugs for you)

mergrl said...

of course I will be joining you, couldn't pass up tea and cookies with 2 of my favorite people :0)

ME Strauss said...

Whew! What a relief. I had all of these cookis and a place in mind for you. It wouldn't have been the same without you.

Kelley Bell said...

Ahh, Syncronicity again.
Last week, while I was in Florida (thanks to you, Liz), I learned the art of the Chinese Tea Ceremony, which is quite different from the Japanese version.
My best friend just returned from China with a new baby girl, she and her husband adopted.
The steps and movemnets of the Chinese ceremony are completly unique from the Japanese version, but the spirt and intent are identical.

There is a concept in martial arts called "Mushin Mind." The state of being described as "mind-no mind." It's like Michael Jordan when he's "in the zone." It's like a runner's high. It's the art of knowing how to do something so well that you no longer have to think about it. You flow in harmony with the universe in moving meditation. (Like Garnet playing with the symphony.)

I know this comment has turned into a long post, but I have a story to tell, if you care to pull up a chair and listen...

There is an ancient legend in China of a great tea master, the greatest to ever live. One day a brash young warrior came into town looking to prove his skill and gain a reputation. He knocked into the tea master and then proceeded to yell at the old man. "How dare you block my way! I am a warrior! Step aside!"
The old man bowed his head, and attempted apology, but the warroir would not listen. He demanded that the two meet in a duel at noon the next day, as a matter of honor.
The old tea master went to a swordsman in the village asking for help. They spent all night practicing, to no avail. "I am sorry my friend, I can not teach you the art of the sword in one night. But I have some advice: When you go to the duel, arrive early, sit down and make tea. Trust me. It is your only hope."
So the tea master did just that.

He did the best tea ceremony of his life, a perfection in every way. When his brash young foe arrived, the old man stood slowly, and drew his sword, still in a deep state of mushin. The youth took one look into the eyes of the old man, and knew, without a shadow of doubt, he was facing a great Grand Master. The old man offered one more appology, to which the youth wisely accepted, and quickly fled.

...and that my patient friends, is the story of the tea maker.


ME Strauss said...

Dear Kelbell,
What a story. Thank for that. I am going to meditate on that message all day today. When someone asks how was my day, I will say I was making tea.

garnet david said...

I like how you juxtapose those two contrasting ideas at the end: freedom and discipline. They are the yin and yang of happiness. One cannot function without the other. But I have the hardest time keeping discipline in the picture.

The tea ceremony is a wonderful example of pure ritual carrying the weight of the freedom within it. The ceremony is rich with meaning.

Hope you're well.


ME Strauss said...

Hi David,
I love how I've seen you balance just those two things in the time I've come to know you. How you've gotten softer and more centered at that same time. I feel calmer when you're near.

Kelley Bell said...

I think we should all get together for tea sometime. Tree, Mergirl, Whirling Betty, Garnet, Liz...everyone in real space.

If we do it in Columbus, we could all go to the symphony and listen to David play, then follow with sushi and a tea ceremony.

How cool would that be!

Melly said...

I don't mind learning, but I mind that I don't know. A bit of the same because I tend to jump ahead of the first few steps cause they're boring and slow... So I understand you :)

Learning the tea ceremony sounds wonderful, although I get the naggging suspicion I'd be laughing the whole time with turning the cup and all that. I'm not much for ceremonies :)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Kel,
I'd be in for all, but the sushi. Make mine cookies, Instead.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Melly,
We'd be a pair if we were learning together. You'd start laughing and i'd start laughing with you. Then we'd both get tea detention and we'd have to stay after tea school. Oooh that wouldn't be good would it. I'd have to keep the cookies hidden until the tea lady wasn't looking.