It has been 65 days since we have been self-isolating here in Portland. Things were already starting to shut down when I decided to cancel all chanoyu classes, workshops, demonstrations and events and close Issoan tea room for teaching.
The tea room feels empty, but not lonely. Everyday, I zokin the tatami, hang a scroll and arrange a flower. When I practice, I put on a kimono and do temae, but nobody is there to drink it. I am getting a feel for how my own tea tastes to the guests.
On April 1, I began to offer video 1-1 temae classes to my students. Fortunately, I can offer a choice of FaceTime, Skype, Facebook video, and zoom classes, depending the students’ ability to connect. They have each set up a tea space in their own homes and have used their own dogu or improvised from what they have at home. Currently, I am teaching 12 temae classes per week.
Through the urging of tea students, we have zoom discussions twice a week. On Saturdays the choice of discussion is my choice. Topics covered so far: gomei and seasonality, scroll readings and meanings, Japanese ceramics, beyond wabi and sabi, sweets in corona virus time, how to tie knots for chanoyu. Student led topics are discussed on Tuesday nights: Readings from Wind in the Pines; Pointing to the moon, Tea after Rikyu- Urasenke rekidai. We have a list of topics that will keep us going for a long time.
The students really like these discussions and gives them a chance to ask me questions we would not have time for in regular class.
On May 3, I participated in the Urasenke Midorikai Alumni Association’s OneWorld chakai. Midorikai graduates from all over the world participated in a temae relay around the world. There are 22 hours of video you can watch here. It was an affirming and inspiring time that connected more than 300 people through chanoyu, It showed me that you can still have chanoyu in a time of Corona virus.
With that inspiration, I am getting invitations to attend chakai all over the world via video and zoom. We are planning our own chakai here in Portland. We are lucky to be living in a time when technology can connect us and chanoyu can unite us. Though I long for the time when I can serve guests in my tea room, Issoan, until that time, this will have to do. And surely this furthers the mission of “Peacefulness through a bowl of tea.”