Hatsugama 2023

This year Issoan celebrated Hatsugama in a hybrid as still some people cannot come to the tea room, and some people attended from out of town.

The first seki I laid sumi and served tenshin meal.


Then a break and our zoom guests joined us for sweets and tea.  Thank you all for joining to celebrate the New Year.


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New Year poetry gathering

Happy New Year from Issoan Tea.  This morning we met for the 5th annual poetry gathering at Issoan.  It is always a popular event as we visit, talk, share incense, potluck food, and sweets and tea over the course of 4 hours as we compose a poem for the year.  This year we had 8 participants and so there were 30 verses in the poem.

Here is this year’s collaborative poem:

  1. A New Day

Darkness turns to dawn
As Tiger yields to Rabbit
A new day begins!
Each moment brings potentials;
Each second invites new change

  1. Snow on Distant Hills

Each second invites new change
I walk along the path to the tea house
As I look up, the distant hills covered with white
Seem much closer today
I pull my collar against the cold

  1. Cold Dew

I pull my collar against the cold
My shoulders brush the branches
Glittering drops, tiny gems
Falling from the leaves
A trail leading home

  1. A Good Meal

A trail leading home
Familiar yet always new
Passing through the roji
Hints of the tearoom through the branches
Anticipating an intimate meal with friends

  1. Bundle up

Anticipating an intimate meal with friends
And talks that can warm up the soul.
White snow rustles behind shoji
Bundling up the world from severe cold.

  1. Travel

From severe cold
I steel myself for a long journey
A long time delayed
Preparations finally complete
I look to the horizon

  1. New vistas

I look to the horizon
Taking the first step
Long anticipated
My imagination soars
What will I find ahead?

  1. Adventure

What will I find ahead?
A path opens into the mountains,
Three roads fork into its depths
On one side, birds chirp among the trees; on the other,
A trickle of water gurgles away.

  1. Beauty of nature

A trickle of water gurgles away
All around me nature glows
A thousand shades of green
Looking deep into the sky
I walk deep into the forest

  1. Small stream

I walk deep into the forest
Following the sound of nature’s laughter
A stream flowing over stones
Far ahead between trees
Sunlight glistens on the water

  1. Dappled light

Sunlight glistens on the water
Beckoning me forward
The forest closes in quiet and the sounds of birds
As they flit through the trees
Walking in and out of light

  1. Chance meeting

Walking in and out of light
In the world of shadows
Brings plenty things into the sight.
So, don’t be scared and don’t hide
Let the chance lead you to a new meeting

  1. Conversation

Let the chance lead you to a new meeting
Once in a lifetime experience
Connecting over time and space
Travelers on separate paths temporarily intersecting
Sharing warmth and joy

  1. Laughter

Sharing warmth and joy
Discovery of common interests
Laughter comes easily
A turn of the wheel
Have we met before?

  1. Falling in love

Have we met before?
An encounter of a lifetime—
Or encounters throughout a lifetime?
To meet, separate, and perhaps reconvene—
When will we see each other’s smiles again?

  1. Out in the fields

When will we see each other’s smiles again?
When the flowers fill the fields
The sun shines throughout the day
Growing fruits in abundance
Blue skies fill with clouds

  1. Storm clouds

Blue skies fill with clouds
A veil across the sun
White to grey, darker and darker
Anticipation builds
The first drop falls

  1. Standing in the rain

The first drop falls
The smell of damp earth
Rises up in greeting
Then the rain descends
Drops of rain on my upturned face

  1. Parting

Drops of rain on my upturned face
Like stitches that join the Earth and the Sky
Marking your way
After you said good-bye
To people at home and made the first pace

  1. The pine stands alone

To people at home and made the first pace
Continuing on the mountain path
A single soul passes a lone pine
Standing against wind, rain and time
Solitude the sole companion

  1. Contemplation

Solitude the sole companion
The mountain ageless
Winding road ascends
A leaf blows across my path
I look within


  1. Reflection

I look within
And see eight billion people.
Are these me?
Those eight billion people are also me.

  1. Deep breath

Those eight billion people are also me
Crowding out thoughts coming swiftly
How can I find myself?
I inhale and slowly, let my breath fade
The world is made new again

  1. Be here now

The world is made new again
Every moment unique
Never to occur again
Savor where and when you are
The present is a gift

  1. A new day

The present is a gift
Like the sun rising over a mountain
Changing light drenches everything
Illuminating the world slowly
Every day new and the same

  1. Snow on distant hills

Every day new and the same
Never repeats
Snow on distant hills.
Is that the old capital
Where my heart is left?

  1. A good meal

Where my heart is left
Nostalgia carries me forward
Wisps of memory, a scent, a taste
Of a home cooked meal filling my body and soul
For many steps are still to come

  1. Travel

For many steps are still to come
The way is long
The journey brings new experiences
Each bend in the road a surprise
I crest the hill

  1. New vistas

I crest the hill
And peer into the distance
The sun follows me over the horizon,
First illuminating the soaring peaks
Then shining on the hidden valleys.

  1. Beauty of Nature

Then shining on the hidden valleys
Secrets slowly reveal themselves
If you are patient and wait
Nature gives whole heartedly
Its beauty to anyone who can see.

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Happy New Year from Issoan Tea

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The longest night

Here we are once again at the turn of the year.  I like to mark the winter solstice and the return of the light.  The days from now on will be getting longer, and in six months we will be sitting in the sun on the longest day of the year.  Seasons turn around year after year without paying attention to the concerns of people.

It has been a tough couple of years for many and I truly thought we had turned a corner this fall when I reopened Issoan for in-person lessons.  But Covid continues to spread around the world and closer to home.  It has been a bad flu season with hospitals filling up again.  The war still rages in Ukraine, and politics continue to divide us in the U.S.  I have also lost some very good friends to cancer this year.

I was always proud, too proud maybe, of my ability to sit seiza in the tea room.  This summer, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my hands and knees, and now I have periodic flare ups that make it painful to walk or go up and down stairs.  At these times, it is impossible to get up and down in the tea room or sit for more than 10 minutes.   I have trouble holding utensils in my hands, and yes, typing can be painful.  Fortunately, with physical therapy, exercise, and medication, I can mitigate it.

I am getting to the age where all these things make me feel my mortality.  And so today, as we reach the zenith of night, I am contemplating the winter of my life.  I have such an extra ordinary life.  I could never have predicted the richness of my experience, nor the relationships I have and had with such amazing people.  I am grateful for my comfortable life with electricity, water, and heat at the turn of the button.  I have permanent shelter and I am free from financial worries.  I get to pursue my passion with the support of people around me.  Everyday I wake up and see my husband.  I tell him that I am so happy to have another day with him, the love of my life.

With all of these advantages, I have been able to help people around me.  Sometimes financially, sometimes just lending a sympathetic ear.  During the last few years of my Dad’s life, as I was taking care of him, he started calling me “Sunshine” and looked forward to my visits weekly, and at the end of his life, daily.  My husband calls me the bringer of light, otherwise he says his life would be a much darker place.

So now we are here, at the turn of the year where we crave the light after the longest night.  We will return to the light in the sky as the days begin to lengthen.  But we can all be the bringer of light to the people around us.  Be the light you want to see in the world.

You cannot force a flower to open, but you can become the sun.
~The Algonquin Medicine Man.

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Things Chado has taught me, part 2

Thank you for the great response to the previous post on what Chado has taught me.  I would like to extend my gratitude to those who read these posts and never comment, but I find out later they have been following for a very long time.

If you would like to share things Chado has taught you in the comments, I would love that.  Thank you, and I hope these posts contribute to your own journey with tea.

Here are the next 10 thing Chado has taught me:

  1. Be humble. Respect others. Give appreciation without flattery. 
  2. Everything has a spirit and a story. Don’t just consider something by itself, consider all the hands that touched it, shaped it, and used it before you. 
  3. Cleaning and preparation takes more time than the temae. 
  4. There is a lot of hidden work that goes into a tea gathering. Consideration of such unseen elements applies to many things outside tea. 
  5. Hataraki. Making it work when things aren’t as you expected or exactly as they’re “supposed to be”. 
  6. Leave the world outside when entering the tea room, but bring the tea room with you out into the world. 
  7. Tea is not a solo event. The best tea is shared. 
  8. Patience. Everything has its own time, and the journey is where the value lies. 
  9. Going back to basics. It’s important to continually practice the most basic forms. It’s easy to pick up bad habits when you are focusing on more complex procedures. 
  10. Tea is best enjoyed with a working knowledge of all the elements involved – ceramics, woodworking, tea making, ironwork, bamboo work, calligraphy, etc. 

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