Primal: Hatsugama: The First Tea of 2017

Steam rises from water poured from a hishaku (a traditional bamboo ladle) into a bowl of matcha (powdered green tea) in  Hatsugama , the first tea of the new year.

Steam rises from water poured from a hishaku (a traditional bamboo ladle) into a bowl of matcha (powdered green tea) in Hatsugama, the first tea of the new year.

 

The coals

Hang in their box

Nestled on a sculpted sea of ash

In the copper cube

Beneath the rice straw mats. 

 

It is cold

But the rich invisible aroma

Of incense

Warms the dark room

With the fires of centuries

And tradition. 

 

Steam draws feathers

Into the air above the iron kettle

And licks the bamboo ladle

As it pours hot life

Into impossibly green powder

Lit as from within

Forming tiny mountains

In the sea

Inside the bowl. 

 

I

Even in my injured state

Sink into a different body

My arm in its sling

Knows it cannot carry the tea to my lips

Especially in such a precious vessel

But my hosts

Eager to share this moment

Aware that strict traditions

Must bow gently before hospitality

Do what they must

Helping

Along with the primal fire

The curling steam

The dense tea

The chestnuts and pressed sugar

The instruments so skillfully made

The flickering incense

The dim paper windows 

And the dove calling outside the teahousemonths too early

All bringing me to this one moment

That lifts me up above pain and healing

Into a kind of love

One finds only in ritual. 

 

Humans seem to have a primal need

To experience beauty together 

And to create rituals around sharing it. 

 

Thank god

For beauty

For ritual

And for primal desires

That for once

Feed the soul

And heal the body 

In the exquisite power

Of a quiet ceremony shared in love.