Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Month: July 2017

One time, one meeting

hands holding a cup of tea

There is only this moment

I studied Japanese tea ceremony for awhile* and one of its key concepts** is Ichi-go, ichi-e: 一期一会 “one time, one meeting”. It seems suitably vague and mysterious, but it permeates every aspect of the ceremony.

If you go to a Japanese tea ceremony, you will sit on straw tatami mats while the host makes you a bowl of green tea. You will eat a sweet confection while watching the host make the tea, and then you’ll drink the tea when offered the bowl. Then you will sit back and watch as the host finishes the ceremony by putting the tea components away, before then leaving.

Eat a little, drink a little, get some entertainment in the meantime. It seems simple, and normal, enough.

And yet.

What you may not have realized was the amount of thought and preparation the host did to make the experience special for you:

  • The flowers were seasonal and arranged to reflect that.
  • The calligraphy on the scroll hanging in the alcove on your way in contained a phrase of intention (theme) for the ceremony.
  • The tea was chosen specifically for this ceremony.
  • The tea bowl was chosen because it reflected the season and perhaps the calligraphy, or has special meaning for this event.
  • The bamboo tea scoop was chosen for its poetic name that complemented the theme of this ceremony.
  • The tea caddy was chosen for its artistry and shape which resonated with the theme and season.
  • The sweets were made to suit the season and the nature of the ceremony.
  • The clothing the host wears reflects the season.

And that was for a very simple tea ceremony***. For the more elaborate ones, there would be two very different types of tea, as well as a complete meal, taking several hours.

All of this effort for a single event.

One time, one meeting.

This moment will never happen again. We may meet again, and we may have tea again, but it won’t be exactly like this. The weather will be different, the season different, the location different, the states of our hearts and minds different.

So we appreciate the people we are with in this very moment, because we know that it will never occur in the same way again.

Or ever.****

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*And dearly loved it. I would love to start up again, when I can catch my breath.

**Dare I say “the foundational concept“?

***And one that leaves out the entrance and exit aspects of the ceremony, and probably a fair bit more that I’m not recalling at the moment.

****In remembrance of an acquaintance who suddenly passed away, and of the loved ones who are no longer with us. Perhaps this is my early Obon.

Tea image: Antonio

7 Tips for a Not-horrible First Surfing Lesson

dog surfing

It’s something like this. If you’re lucky.

Ah, so the tropical waters beckon you, enticing you to fulfill your vacation dream of learning to surf those gorgeous blue waves . . .

I know all about it, and can share some top tips to make your first surfing lesson not entirely suck.

  1.  Schedule an early morning class. Earlier in the day means it’s a little cooler, a little less sun, better water conditions*, and fewer people on the beach to see your epic fails.
  2. Skip breakfast, or lunch. Or really any food. In fact, don’t consume anything before your lesson.
  3. Smother yourself in sunscreen. Including your scalp. Because that sun will burn every last micrometer of your skin—even the bare slivers that show between your roots.
  4. Wear a one-piece suit. And guys? Skip the trunks and go for the retro look. I highly recommend something from the early 1900’s—less likely to come off when you get pounded by a wave.
  5. Swallow your pride. You are going to fail. Just accept that.
  6. Figure out early on if you are goofy. “Goofy”** in surf terminology = right foot forward. Knowing ahead of time if you are left or right foot forward is helpful.
  7. Take the taxi. There is a distinct reason there are no fat surfers—because surfing is a lot of work. You paddle all the way out to catch a wave, then maybe you catch a wave, then you paddle back out for another wave, and you keep doing this until you decide to paddle back to shore. For the record, it is a VERY LONG way to get back to the beach. So when your instructor offers to “toe” you in (he hooks his toes over your surfboard and tows you back to the beach), take it.

My one and only surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach formed the basis of my short story “Surf’s Up” in Out of Time. However, the fictional version has a happier ending than my own experience, which involved feeding the local sealife my continental breakfast, and having to get pathetically “toed” in to shore. I am now more than happy to skip the waves and just enjoy myself on the beach, on an unmoving towel, admiring the view of the water between page turns of a brain candy book***.

 

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* At least that’s what my instructor said. I wouldn’t know.

** There is a lovely little breakfast join named “Goofy Cafe & Dine” on Ala Moana Blvd. Kalua pork in Eggs Benedict? Oh, yeah.

*** The kind of book that does not tax your mind, that is the mental equivalent of cotton candy—light, fluffy, inconsequential. And the kind that, like eating too much Halloween candy, gives you that icky coating that you have to floss and scrub away, and makes you vow never to eat that stuff again and as of tomorrow you’ll only eat broccoli and brown rice. Or maybe that’s just me.

The Missing Circle of Hell

In his Inferno, Dante details the nine circles of Hell, each circle increasing in wickedness:

  1. Limbo
  2. Lust
  3. Gluttony
  4. Greed
  5. Wrath
  6. Heresy
  7. Violence
  8. Fraud
  9. Treachery

I remember reading this in college and thinking, “How interesting—Fraud and Treachery are worse than anything!”*

Oh, no, Dear Reader. There is one thing worse than even those wicked acts. Something far more heinous and abominable.

Tearing pages from library books.

I did my research** and found Her Royal Baking Majesty Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible. I just knew this was what I was looking for: an excellent book on baking cakes. With a few keystrokes, I placed the book on hold and waited, hoping it would arrive in time for the 4th of July so I would have a day to bake a fabulous cake from this highly regarded cookbook. The book arrived on the 3rd, and I took it home and immediately began flipping through it. Oh, what cake will I try? Oooh! Here’s a good one, and Birnbaum recommends a buttercream frosting. I’ll just look at that recipe to see if I have everything to make it-

DOH! Someone had ripped out the pages of the basic buttercream recipe!

Upon further inspection***, I discovered that the fiend had also ripped out the pages of the key cake recipes:

missing pages from a library book

The tell-tale sign of a sinner! (Can you see the remains of the ripped pages? Ugh, I hate camera phones.)

Who would do such a thing? Was there no photocopier nearby? Did the brute not have a smartphone to snap a photo? If it meant that much, it would be a far better thing to steal the whole damn book than to disfigure it and then leave its remains for unsuspecting bakers to discover and flail upon.

People suck.

So now I am debating whether to place a hold on a different copy of the book, or to find a different cookbook to work from, or (heaven forbid), just find something from the Internets.

<sob>

 

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*Yeah, I’m sure that is exactly what I was thinking. It was more likely along the lines of “What the $#@&? How did Dante get to that? Someone must have seriously screwed him over.”

**”Research” = searching Amazon for “Most Popular” “Cookbooks” “Baking” “NOT Kindle”

***”Inspection” = starting with the title page, looking for other missing pages because, you know, criminals don’t commit just one crime.

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