I think one of the repeating themes of my tea study is how often I return the the basics. With every change of season, my students and I practice warigeiko. Though it has been challenging the last 18 months because of Covid-19, as we return to in person keiko, we will have to learn all over again how to be in a tea room and how to be with other people. So we can start again at the beginning and re-introduce ourselves to each other and to our practice.
One of the good things about these times is that through technology, not only can we have local online lessons, but participation anywhere. And through the generosity of experienced teachers we are able to take in workshops, lectures, panels and chakai online. From seasonal lectures, to kaiseki demonstrations, these are opportunities that I would not have been able to travel to meet these teachers or hear them speak in-person.
I am an inveterate note-taker and with these online learning opportunities, there is so much material that I am still sorting out and trying to digest everything. Even though I can type almost as quickly as a person speaks, I read somewhere years ago, that retention of material is greater if the notes were written down in long-hand. The time it takes me to write a line also forces me to distill what the speaker is saying and think while I write. When I was typing notes, it was almost automatic. Typing the words as they were spoken would enter my ears and come out my fingers, bypassing my brain. Often, after a session, I could not recall what the speaker said.
So early last year, I rediscovered writing with old-fashioned writing utensils like a pencil. My favorite pencils to take notes with are a softer lead pencil that I picked up years ago in Japan, though also I use Palomino Blackwing pencils. The act of cleaning off my desk, sharpening the pencil, opening a notebook and writing the date at the top of the page is like a short version of preparing the mizuya to make tea, or grinding ink in preparation for calligraphy for me.
Recently, I also rediscovered the fountain pen. Even more care needs to be taken to maintain and use one of these writing utensils. And yet the results of writing with good pencils or a fountain pen truly satisfy me in a way that a convenient ball point or gel pen cannot.
My husband says that it is like tea. Sure, you can go for the convenience and low cost of a tea bag from the grocery store, but a good bowl of matcha served in a tatami room is so much more satisfying. You can drink box wine, too. Fountain pens are not for everybody, but there is also an enthusiast group of people who love and cherish fountain pens similar to those who love and cherish the Way of Tea.
All of these things take more time, more money, and more attention. As a result of writing more by hand, my handwriting has improved becoming more legible and yes, more beautiful. For my next project, I have bought some high-end stationery and envelopes and have dedicated myself to reviving the art of letter writing.
It is all the same. I consider it just an extension of living the beautiful tea life.