Saturday, March 29, 2008

Deadlines and flower arranging

The biggest drawback of working for a publication is meeting its deadline.

Now, I am not whinging about either work or deadlines. I enjoy my job and the the newspaper I work for is published weekly. But the one evening a week that I need to work late is the same night that we practice Tea. On a good day, the paper is finished by 7:00 and I'll be home somewhere between 7:30-8:00. On a rough day we still can be working at 8:00. Or later. By the time I'm home I'm ready for shoes-off, sweat pants-on, cocktails and dinner, not sitting seiza and folding fukusa. In the end, though, Tea practice refreshes my weary mind and I'm glad for it. My knees are another matter.

This week's practice -- with Annie, Kristen, Pia, John and myself -- was excellent. I was home at a decent hour and since I had not been able to arrange Chabana that morning as I usually do -- nor had Harvey been able to -- I asked him if he still wanted me to take care of it. He replied that he was going to have one of the other students volunteer to select and arrange the flowers. I pulled a selection of vases from the cupboard and brought in a variety of flowers from the garden. The situation evolved into a workshop, with everyone arranging flowers (except me!). Annie was especially inspired. We put all the flowers in the tokonoma, whereupon Nikko the Evil Ninja Tea Cat selected one of John's arrangements and removed nearly all its petals.

After Nikko apologized to John (in her own fashion, of course), Annie and Kristen coached Pia while she made usucha. John was shokyaku and the rest of us played musical guests while taking turns making tea (except me!).


Pronunciation: 'dOl-dr&mz, 'däl-, 'dol-
Function: noun plural
Etymology: probably akin to Old English "dol" foolish
1 : a spell of listlessness or despondency
2 often capitalized : a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds
3 : a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump


I'd like to blame this period of apparent inactivity on the weather: It's been rather warm, muggy and overcast, making me inclined to take nap (and I'm not much of a nap-taker). There are other reasons for my inactivity, which I'll deftly avoid addressing, and go on to talk about last night's tea practice.

A full complement of students appeared at the house last night, after several weeks of Kristen having company, or Annie or me having work issues, or John and Pia housesitting. I was even done with work early enough to be home in time to enjoy tea with them. Harvey, on the other hand, was having a bad day with back pain and could not sit with us in the chashitsu. We practiced basic folds for fukusa, and then had usucha.

Nikko -- the tea cat -- was particularly well-behaved and didn't eat the flowers in the tokonoma (last night's chabana was white Dicentra/bleeding hearts/Dutchman's breeches). She did sit in the tokonoma for a spell, and I commented to teshu, "Those are lovely flowers in the tokonoma. What are they?" To which Kristen replied, "They are called 'Nikko-breeches.'"

Cherry blossoms and hailstorms

Originally published
Friday March 17, 2006

2006 has been a year of extremes in stormy weather, but somehow the cherry trees know when its time to bloom. Even though they have been pelted by unseasonable hail and sleet last week, some intrepid trees have managed to blossom and are making a nice show. By next week, I expect my favorite tree on the corner of Grotto and F streets in Henderson Center (Eureka) will be spectacular next week. That is, unless we have yet another merciless storm. Is that more rain I hear on the window?

The plum trees were blooming -- back in early February -- when I made my last post. We've been rather busy since then, doing tea on a fairly regular basis and, as promised, taught another Tea Ceremony seminar at Humboldt State University (HSU) in Arcata. The format for this seminar was much the same as in 2005 (see previous post) and was attended by 20 students, who, for the most part, enjoyed the class. Several expressed interest in continuing study.

Harvey II taught the class and delivered a history lecture. Eric S. made the trip from Portland to assist in teaching the seminar, and he and Kristen J. and Mie M. all did Usucha and Ryakubondate. We were also assisted by John J., Pia G., Annie, Sherry and myself. Shanna C., as always, kept the dogu cleaned, organized and cataloged. Rich P., his wife Gail, and Shanna's husband Eric assisted in moving dogu and the weighty tatami mats (about 20-1/2 in all). (I hope I didn't forget anyone!) We extend our gratitude to Dr. Gwen Robertson, the HSU Art Department and Dr. Richard Paselk for making the course possible, and to everyone who helped that weekend. We truly appreciate everyone's help, it couldn't be done without you all!

Last year, students were given an assignment to write one Haiku poem. This year, they were assigned to write three Haiku: one which was shared with the class, and two to share with fellow guests while enjoying Tea. One student's poem expressed surprise at how physically demanding Tea is (something to the effect of, "More sweets, more tea, quick! My knees hurt!") Another expressed feelings of longing for a loved one's phone call. Several wrote about dogs (for 2006, the Year of the Dog) and about smiles (the theme for Haiku competition in Japan this year). Others observed weather, trees or flowers. All were wonderful.

We're looking forward to another seminar at HSU. If the budget allows, perhaps there will be one in the fall.

Tea Ceremony Seminar, Spring 2005, HSU

Originally published
Thursday Feb. 2, 2006

A year late in getting out this info. Ah well, it is a teaser for the upcoming 2006 seminar which will take place on February 11-12, 2006.

On the weekend of February 26-27, 2005, Harvey taught another seminar at Humboldt State University. This was the third seminar offered by the HSU Art Department with Gwen Robertson as the instructor of record.

Professor Robertson, along with Dr. Richard Paselk of the Chemistry Department, were instrumental in getting these seminars off the ground. Dr. Paselk was a long-time friend of Professor Lloyd Fulton, and offered assistance and encouragement in launching these seminars.

The seminar began on Saturday with a slide lecture and demonstration of usucha. After a lunch break, class resumed with instruction on being a good tea guest. A homework assignment was given: write a haiku to share with the class. On Sunday, there was discussion, sharing of haiku, and demonstration of dogu (chawan, chaire and natsume, scrolls, futaoki and so on). Instruction on being a guest continued until the lunch break. After lunch, students participated in a tea ceremony, either usucha or ryakubondate, and drew lots to determine guest order and which ceremony they would take part in.

Most students seem to really enjoy the class and gain insight from it.

Harvey was assisted in demonstration and instruction by Kristen Jesenko and Eric Scheenstra; Shanna Cowgil, Mie Matsumoto and Holly Harvey assisted with organizing and cleaning the dogu, and flower arrangements. We received much assistance moving tatami and dogu by Dr. Paselk and several other friends.

Happy Dog Year

Originally published on The rain continues on and off, good for growing moss but not for planting cherry trees. The soil is soggy and the wind has been chilly. The cherry tree I bought last fall really needs to go in the ground but I hate to plant it when the soil is so saturated. My garden-mentor Bonnie encourages me to plant it anyway, so the next time there is break in the weather I'll start digging.

And since the rain continues to thwart most outdoor activity, I did some new year weekend garden activities indoors. Mr. Mailman insists on walking through the moss garden, so I've built a little bamboo fence to suggest to him that he might find another route.

Gong hee fat choy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chinese-Japanese Tea Exchange

Recently we were approached to demonstrate Cha-no-yu to a Chinese student who practices Chinese tea ceremony. Shuai has studied Chinese tea since she was a teen and learned through a mutual friend at HSU that we practice Japanese tea ceremony. On March 15th we arranged a demonstration at our home chashitsu.

Kristin performed Usucha. Guests were Laura, Kumi, Jay (Kumi's husband), Shuai (the Chinese student) and Holly. Harvey narrated. Kumi and Jay had just gone to San Fransisco and brought fresh manju sweets. We enjoyed Haiken after Usucha.

After tea, Shuai asked several questions about the ceremony, and was interested to know about any symbolic meaning what movements or actions might have. Harvey explained about the Four Principles -- Purity, Tranquility, Respect and Harmony -- and their influence on Cha-no-yu. And later, while we were enjoying sake and senbei in the kitchen, Harvey and Shuai sat down at the computer and watched YouTube videos of both Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies.

Shuai is anxious to demonstrate Chinese tea ceremony for us, and we are equally excited to see it. We hope to see it at HSU's Asian-Pacific Cultural Festival or sooner if we can manage.

Here's an article written by our local paper about Shuai and her tea practice:

We are arranging a tea demonstration of our own at the HSU festival, but nothing has been finalized yet.