It is not often that I get to be a guest at a Chakai. So when I was invited by my friend Christopher Ezzell to a Chakai, I was thrilled and delighted. Christopher lives on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound, about a three hour drive from my house. Since I had not been anywhere for 16 months, it was my first excursion into the world since Covid. As long as I was driving in the car, I felt relaxed, but when I stopped for a break, I was anxious and a little afraid as I donned my mask. But the drive was uneventful and I pulled into the terminal for the ferry to get to the island.
When I arrived at the house, Nadine showed me where to change into kimono and she drove me to the tea house, about 5 minutes away. We pulled up to a house surrounded by mature trees. A boat on one side, a woodpile in front, it looked like a typical Northwest dwelling. But once we got to the side of the house, Nadine insisted I go first through what looked like a Japanese gate.
I followed the path along the side of the house and came upon a jewel of a garden. It was cool and shady and green. I could hear the trickle of water, and see a small pond. As I looked around I saw a Japanese garden wall, and a koshikake machiai, covered bench. It was all so unexpected and charming. Christopher came out to invite us into the tea house, and I found the tsukubai and crawled through the nijiriguchi.
Oh my, it was a wonderous tea house built of native woods. I was surrounded by a Japanese tea room, with distinctly Pacific Northwest touches. Native woods combined with tatami gave such a peaceful and homey feeling. There was even a real charcoal fire in the brazier. Nadine was the perfect companion, not saying much, but letting me discover each and every thing on my own.
You know when the host and the guests are are on the same wavelength it makes for a magical chakai. We each knew our roles to play and the give and take between my host and me made for a beautiful dance that delighted me at every turn. Oh yes, the host knew I love koicha and prepared such a delicious bowl of tea. The sweets were delicious, the tea tasty, and conversation enlightening. We talked about the history of the tea house, the utensils and before I knew it. I felt a little heart stab because knew the chakai was coming to an end. I lingered in the garden afterward holding on to the feeling of love and acceptance. Even now as I write this, I can feel the warmth of that afternoon, remember the silence and the conversations with the host and the feeling I was participating in something larger than the three of us.
The tea house is called the tea house of the winter moon because the moon shows through the tsukimado (moon window) from October to March.
I cannot thank Christopher and Nadine for taking such good care of me and giving me such a beautiful experience that I will remember for a lifetime.