Sauna Tea

Sauna Tea
Third tea ceremony of 2020: The answer is 42.

I had planned to do this week’s tea ceremony at an event hosted by a local resort. The event was cancelled, leaving me without a weekly tea ceremony location. I was a little panicked, since this is only the third week and already I could potentially fail at my self-imposed once a week schedule for bringing tea ceremony to different places. My brilliant husband suggested I do this week’s ceremony in our sauna – while it warms up, before full-on sauna temperature!

Nestled in a stand of trees, a simple structure with a wood-burning stove, the sauna is a place of peace and calm and contemplation for us. I dreamed up the sauna, and Doug built it. I had never thought to do tea in the sauna. But bringing tea ceremony into the space we use and share for “hot zen” (less effort than hot yoga!) made me smile.

Since the sauna is a curious place to do a tea ceremony, and since it was just me and Doug for tea, I decided to wear something a little unorthodox for ceremony. The silk fabrics and patterns of traditional Japanese garments are art in themselves, so instead of wearing my tea practice jacket, I wore a beautiful haori. Haori are men’s wear, considered neither appropriate for women nor tea ceremony. Breaking these social mores today also made me smile.

Snowfall yesterday was about eight inches, so while Doug shoveled the path to the sauna and started a fire, I prepped tea materials. Today’s temae, obon gyou, a tray ceremony meaning iku, to go. The tokanoma scroll was an image of a single pheasant and white camellia. The number of birds on the prints I have been using for ceremony has by chance matched the number of guests…and today, no exception. One guest (Doug), one golden pheasant. A small hand-made vase purchased at a shop in Evanston held a few ends of white pine. (The flower struggle is real.) The tea sweet, a molases yokan from Japan. The tea, beautiful, delicious Nara matcha.

The pleasure of doing tea for one person, especially when that person is my best friend, is so rich. The whole time I am filled with awe, happiness, and of course gratitude. Today, tea was a celebration of all that Doug makes possible for me. How long have we known each other? Next week will be 42 years since our first date.

With love and gratitude,