The day after Christmas, December 26th we had our first Winter intensive at Issoan Tea School. For my students it was their first intensive. We started at 3 pm and ended at 9:30 pm. In between we sat zazen, practiced warigeiko, reviewed movement in the tearoom, did five teamae, laid the charcoal shozumi and rebuilt the charcoal fire gozumi. One student brought a sushi platter and I made ankake udon for everyone. It was such a success, that we plan to make it an annual event.
Shozumi and Gozumi, laying the initial fire and reubuilding the fire were particular highlights. We don’t often get to do these procedures, and especially gozumi so it was a special treat. The charcoal is kind of like your timing device to keep your tea gathering on track. The charcoal is made from special wood and cut into specific size and shape to burn for a specified length of time. It is amazing to hear the singing of the kettle suddenly go silent (and it does seem to be sudden) all at once. It is also a clue to the guests that it is time to take their leave.
Of the two, gozumi is more difficult because you never know what the fire is going to look like as it burns down. Many factors contribute to how the fire burns, from the haigata (ash form), to how the initial fire was laid, to shape of the kettle, how big the furo, how deep the ro, to how long the fire has burned.
So as a host, the first thing you do when you remove the kettle replenish it is to observe how the fire has burned. How much charcoal is left? Did the center collapse? How much of the dozumi (large front charcoal) has burned? Then you rearrange the coals to make room for fresh charcoal and lay them in the fire. You have to use your own judgement whether to use all the charcoal in the basket or only use part of them.
It was a nice fire the students built. And within 30 seconds of returning the kettle to the fire, we once again heard the matsukaze, the sound of the wind in the pines and the murmuring of the kettle.