Monday, 8 November 2010

How to create beauty - lessons from a Japanese Farmhouse makeover

Last weekend two special people arranged sponsorship for me to come up and give practical permaculture workshops. Ma-san and his wife Rie Morimoto have taken on an old Japanese farmhouse, and are steadily turning it into an eco-paradise. Its a home for a family of 4, a vegan guesthouse, eco-goods shop, vegan cookie business (Rie), and office for culture creating events and business consulting (Masa).

As part of my workshop we wandered the property, brainstorming ingenious ways to increase yields and lessen wastes, using permaculture.
As a guesthouse where people paid money to be inspired, we decided that visual beauty was an important yeild.

Here are some of my tips for how to Create Beauty

Find whats already working well. Expand this.

The gently-rusted plate by the door reads 森本 'Morimoto' the family name.
This little arrangement strikes me as beautiful. It will take very little effort to cultivate and spread this particular brand of beauty over the whole property - like a wildflower, its in its element.
So looking carefully, what makes it beautiful? What exactly is it we will reproduce?

  • Using a 'Family' of colors - different from but related to each other, making each other look good. A natural earthy palette.
  • A 'Family' of materials - stone, wood, iron, render, and some vintage glass, like the surface of a frosty pond. It looks pre-industrial, and evokes a faraway world. There is some aluminium in there, but its keeping a low profile.
  • Using the five elements - wood (timber) earth (render), fire (in forged, rusted iron), air (generated by the foliage), water (in the vase, in the pond below). Humans find this innately pleasing, because that's the balance that makes an ecosystem a home, deep back in our history. Their presence says 'you have everything you need to survive.'
  • Gravity-friendly - heavy and dark things below, light smooth things above.
  • Light on dark, dark on light, for contrast, like in my illustrations.
  • Balance of the enduring and the fleeting - the little bamboo vase might have a different flower every few days, the family nameplate will be there forever.

More Wabi-sabi, literally 'rusty and lonely', the beauty of the unpretentious and impermanent.

  • Using things that are both useful and beautiful. The rice from their fields dries in the sun, and this sight makes us happy.
  • Stick to one way of using lines. The whole is a composition of restful verticals and Horizontals, maybe the very ones that got Modrian and Frank Loyd Wright all excited. If these lines are used throughout the whole property, it will give it a World-of-its-own aura, restful, ordered, lively. The circlet of vines looks natural, a charming visitor. Round its its nature. Just don't use naturally straight materials, such as bricks, to make curves. Respect their nature.

Introducing Ma-san, Mr. Morimoto. The beauties of his character would take a while to list, but the most striking one for me is the absence of excuses and evasions. I think it comes from an ability to do this: start doing things BEFORE you know how to do them. Make mistakes, fix them, proceed onwards. Invite people to help. Cherish their contributions, act on them when you can, don't argue for your limitations.

Whats jarring in this photo, needs to be removed?
The yellow bags, the metal rack, and the poster and boxes are gone now.

Light. The Glassed-over North side of the house is filled with lovely sunshine. I recommend placing more seats, eating spots, paths and arranging for activities so that this becomes the place where people spend their time, bathed in winter sunshine.

Pig. This pig is not for eating. He is the welcome committee for guests, to make them feel they are in the country. The family want to move him from this place by the door, so he can spend time out of the harness. I just hope we find a way to do it so we always see him - the chickens are a decorative, rather than useful laying breed, but are hidden away, and that's a waste.

Replace 'stored objects' with 'in-use objects'.
To keep this Zone 1 doorstep area a clear, flowing current of activities, you can't choke it up with rarely used, unbeautiful things, so we started a declutter session.

These rice husks are used as winter fuel for the ancient stove by the doorway.
I knew we could find something better than the over sized grey metal barrel, that was a visual intruder in the lovely doorstep-scape.
Something square would dominate less space, something wooden would snugly fit the 'family' of materials.
Here our WWOOFers Asuka from Taiwan and Moja from Japan put their find from the shed into use, a vintage barrel.

The shed, it turned out, was full of good things from the previous owner, things that would solve many of our problems. But the first problem was ....

We couldn't reach very far inside.
So we gave up decorating Zone one, and just focused on Decluttering the shed.
I put hundreds of little plastic planter pots into plastic garbage bags, to go to the incinerator. Yes, it was hard. That's where rubbish ends up in rural Japan. And that's a key to why a lot of beautifying was still to happen - we couldn't reach the good stuff for the homeless junk that was in the way, that people just couldn't bring themselves to deal with.

How to throw away junk

Lay everything out in 90○ angles
It looks more manageable that way, and true junk is more easily recognized when everything is treated with respect.

Label All things in storage, use high-quality easy access shelves and transparent boxes. If your object is not worth this respect, you probably won't use it.

Give yourself permission to throw things away
Kind and resourceful people see potential value in every cracked and crazy thing.
Throwing it out may be a waste, but if you can't find and use things in the mess, they are already lost to you.
On top of that is buildings and space you cannot use, clarity and beauty lost, wasted.
Its already wasted. You are only gaining by letting it go.

Put a date on it
So, you say you'll use it one day...when, exactly?
When you put a date on things, in your dairy, it forces you to tell the truth - most projects you will never get around to, and never really need to. Let it go on to its next life, and let yourself go on to yours.

Calculate its cost.

Re-buying things you threw or gave away - string, bits of timber, dregs of paint - will cost you how much, over a lifetime? Less than $100. In the right size, right color, and without a few hours searching.
A study sponsored by IKEA estimates the average western house spends $100, 000 of its mortgage on space for things they never use. Clear one room, and you can rent it out for a few hundred dollars a week. Then spend the money

Just because its there doesn't mean you have to use it
Cinder blocks, plastic bags, white polystyrene boxes, cardboard. Its true that they are somewhat serviceable. If you don't find a use for them, they'll go to the rubbish bin.
But if you do use them, you whole home becomes a kind of rubbish bin.
Guests won't feel they are in a special world were everything was put in place with care, love and freedom of choice.
They don't feel that they are special, worthy of effort and fitting things.

Alternatives to these containers and materials doesn't mean you have to spend your money on consumer goods at the hardware store - this doesn't look more thoughtful or beautiful in the end anyway.

If you search, ask around, hold out for something that fits the visual 'family' of your place, you will find it, and it will be happy to be there.

It took five minutes to replace the Cinder blocks with nice wood found in the shed, a goza mat to hide the plastic pigpen, and a scattering of autumn leaves from the yellow plastic bag to hide the bald patch of dust.
Free, and just a few meters away.

Happy pig, things are getting better.

Cardboard boxes from the shop are used to line paths, keep the weeds down.
Convenient, but not beautiful, not easy to walk on.
We discussed options:
  • Trading something the Morimotos have (I found 50 beautiful, useless terracotta pots) for a big pile of chips from the many neighbouring wood mills
  • Chipping the cardboard - it would look less recognizable.
  • Cutting up and scattering rice straw - but it would still fly away, and not last long
  • Keeping our eyes open on car trips for something useful to lay - husks, pebbles, bark

But once we excavated the shed, we found a huge pile of these old goza mats, looking very long-term unemployed.
Cut up and layed carefully, they would be beautiful for looking at and walking on, suppress weeds, and eventually compost back to become plants again.
They were their the whole time. There was just no access path into the shed, and no question being asked, with the answer 'goza mats'. Keeping unanswered questions, unfulfilled desires at the top of your mind creates a vacuum for good things to flow into. Don't fill that space with cardboard.

Just because its there doesn't mean you have to use it

This is true of our emotions as well as our building materials.
The impulse to be whining, angry, frightened or indolent are as common, as close at hand as rustley torn plastic bags and polystyrene.
But we don't have to use them. Our lives can be special, and people who come into our lives can feel special and honoured.

When I resist the impulse to use crap in my surroundings, it strengthens me to resist it in my emotions, and the other way round too.

You cant do it by yourself though, everyone needs a team of helpers.
The Morimoto family are geniuses at attracting the helpers they need, and keeping them well-fed, entertained and happy.

Natural materials

Traditional Rucksack for harvesting from the mountains.

Yuuta, a genius artist, with our dinner, vegan sushi. I couldn't believe its deliciousness.

Another genius of care and deftness. Kenta makes a tower.

Dinner with the Morimoto Family, WWOOFers and guests. Behind me is the woodfired stove, and after dinner, the woodfired bath.
"Mori-no-ie" is written 森の家, and translates as 'House in the Woods'.
So, can you guess which pictogram is means 'woods'?

Lovely Language, Lovely culture, and lovey family in the woods.

Monday, 3 May 2010

'Come as your New Life' Farewell Party photolog

Before I left my home mid-April I had not one, but five farewell parties.
Too many good people in the one night muddles me into not knowing if it really happened.

Now that the non-stop commotion of delivering myself to a New life has settled down, I can look back on it and re-enjoy my pre-eviction days.

This one was a costume party for begetting your very own 'New Life', a chance to start over as Casanova, Revolutionary, Renaissance or Born Again (Yes, with guitar and songs).
"Bring a one-minute skill to share" was the brief, and even I had FUN.

Organization, Brevity and Discipline - that's whats starting to look attractive to me.
Organization - Concertina filed hair and bodice frills, alphabetially ordered.
When you put files where you can FIND them instantly, it feels like flying.
Thanks to Marc, I can now find the special photos, special people right away - in my newly-organized Gmail contacts, newly automated photo files.

Brevity - represented by leather hotpants (not pictured for sensorship reasons).
My brother John is master of this, so my model for the next decade.
He doesn't burden me with the scribble-pad of his thinking process, just decisively tells me its result, and what he wants me to do next. Restful and clear.
Brief, communicative emails, brief intense conversations - juicy!

This word and I traditionally don't have much in common.
But what if it meant this: Being a disciple...of myself. Of the tempting things I've decided to do. Just submitting my workaday self to the hackwork that my dreamy self wants done, trusting it will be worth it.

The wiry guy is Marc from Quebec. In his new life he'll become a proficiant electrician, probably over Wikipedia. Marc can do anything, or find out how to do it. While I ran around looking for a campfire hire company to warm my guests, he wordlessly went out and made one with some bricks.

Stephanie is exploring her Geisha self, and her one-minute skill was this:
"Aging makeup - dark eyeliner in your creases, white higligher on top"
That didn't take long, so she added a bonus desert -" banana, chocolate, tofu. Blend. Mousse".

Jorge the Photographer went to great effort to come as RELAXED.
His skill: how to pose so you look good in Photographs.
Slightly side-on for slimming, lean in so you connect with the viewer. This happens to enlarge the, um, chest.

Maybe he wanted to see what the results of Not Relaxing would be like, Jorge got Stephanie to do him over.

Bria's Harajuku Madam Pompador coached us on how to make a beehive.

On Lahta.
Who taught us the correct wine-tasting words for identifying wankers.

For unknown reasons, Miki got us playing a left-handed drawing game, instead of the Bach violin recital.

Dr. Shoso Shimbo (flower doctor?) is one of the worlds top flower artists, exhibiting at Chelsea Flower show. His tip was for how to sleep at night: step on bamboo for five minutes, till your soles are warm. It will work, but you wont do it. Then he delivered the secret to his universal success "see this tall flower...choose a vase that is tall. See this white flower - ah, this vase is perfect. White".

There you go.

Thank-you Mark, Stephanie, Maki, and all you talent-laden guests and friends.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Generating Happiness - Costumes help

These photos are from Mid-April, meaning a few days from the heartwrenching Moving Day.
But never fear, Stephanie and Marc are here, and they are Mobile Happiness Generators.
Steph the dancer knows, Costumes help.

She got all bouncy when our packing labors reached the storage boxes labeled 'bride dresses', and 'dress-ups'. Out they came, and life went on as usual.

Stephanie Nourished us all.

Marc the animator continued on with his usual creative cyberspace wizardry. Wizard, right?

Mariko continuted to level-up her English. Very diligence.

And we did all those boring tasks associated with the next day's garage sale.

Galligher the Hammer head Cat supervised, politely refraining from asking me where his next home will be.

In an apt costume for a Gone With The Wind style domestic devastation, I put off thinking about it all, at least until tomorrow. Hairstyle improvised with clothespegs.

The dress-up box was a favorite escape place as a child, and it still works, decades on.
Thanks Mum.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The power of concise - Taming of the Preen

Laundryscape photo by Cecilia Macaulay

Just because you come that way, doesn't mean you have to stay that way.

Most of the nice things that come in jars never asked to be dressed in the equivalent of Hawaiian shirts and painfully loud lettering. But really, its not their fault.
Once I invite them home, I gently undress them, arrange for them to feel a little more comfortable in my cupboardscapes.

Please meet my new improved stain remover, made infinitly tamer by a simple subtraction: all the clutter on the label.
My extra motivation this time?

Imagine you have a garden party invitation celebrating the Emporor's birthday, with all the Japan-connected creators in Melbourne attending.
Imaginge on your filmy, rippley organza slip dress, made for garden parties, is a stain. Shadowy but detectable, particularly to the immaculate Japanese.
You don't want to trawl though all those warnings and persuasions on the label, you just want to teach that impudent stain a lesson, and go on with being a spotless mermaid in foamy white silk.

I didn't read the label. I didn't even do a simple chemistry review, that would tell me silk is essentially some protien extruded by a silkworm, and as far as the bleach is concerned, a silk dress is just one big stain waiting to be dissolved.

I won't make that mistake again, because now my new stain remover only tells me the things I need to know, the things I will predictably pretend not to know when faced with strong temptations, and strong wepons.
Let it sit only one or two minutes.
Never use on silk or wool.
Turn the cap to 'off position' after use.

Thats the kind of Haiku Im in need of right now.
The chemistry behind that last line I'm yet to work out, but I now know that if they bother with an instruction, they probably weren't just doodling.
I will obey.

Concise, useful and beautiful.
If my supermarket stain remover package can transform in this direction, so can we.

As an added bonus, here are the social lessons from my new improved preen container is telling me:
1. Cut the advertizing. Once you are in somebody's life, you can relax and stop promoting, defending, making excuses for yourself. They know exactly how valuable you are already. Go straight to the good suff.

2. Let them know clearly from what direction your troublesomeness will come from, so they can head it off . Not Punctual? A loving wake-up call. Easily worn out? Plenty of recharge rests along the way.

3. Make sure you have an 'Off' position, and get someone to put you into it at regular intervals. All this irrepressability can wear a girl out.

The party days of the bleach-scorched mermaid dress are now over. Bias cut, natural fibre, she clings like a corset, yet feels like a cobweb. As my flawed but still beautiful work dress, it will be buoying my spirits as I draw, write and create. Less admiration, lots more love.

There are two sides to everything.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"I'm fine thank you"

Global warming in Venice last month. I'm working on it, world, just hang on in there.

Its a satifying feeling, when people ask you a tricky question, and you have a perfectly-formed, spot-on answer.
With six little brothers and sisters constantly asking me 'Why?', and a childhood addiction to reading, having a good answer is something I've come to see as part of being me.

There is one question, however, that had been defeating me for decades.

The question was "How are you?"

I want to be polite, to have conversations without unnecessary bumps and jerks. But I love conversations that are fresh and sexy and real, talking about the things that matter. So until recently, I would choose left or right, sheep or goats, and compromise. Sometimes I'd get caught smack in the middle, still trying to sum up my audience, and the level of connection I wanted with them:

Q. "Tess! How are you?"
A. "Umm.... ???(Well this being alive is kinda complicated.....).

Some people started providing the answer for me:
Q."How are you, Good?"
A. "Ah......??(Oh dear. Redundant so early, and in my own conversation).

After years of holding out for an always-truthful, always constructive response to "How are you?", I found one this year. One that I can choose to use Every Single Time. With anyone. Truthfully.

It goes like this:
"I'm fine, thank you'.

Variations also work. "Wonderful! Thank-you for asking!" and "Things are great! Its very good to see you".

What is miraculous about this answer is that this is what its really says:
"Until this moment, troubles galore. But from this moment on, I'm with you, starting fresh. You and me, we are going to have a fun conversation, and I have every bit of equipment I need to have a fine time with you.

I don't need to drag stale stuff into new conversations.
I can turn over a new leaf every few minutes a day. Every new exchange can be a chance to get reminded: I have youth and options and education and sunshine and rain and dancing and I live in a western democracy with hospitals and festivals, and you and I might even do something lovely together and I'm absolutely, positively FINE.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Change your cords, change your life.

Change your cords, change your life. This is something I have just started seeing, and I will not explain it eloquently. I need you to help me explain it, so I will just put up some pictures and stories. awkward I know, and hope for the best.

Before I left for my travels, I had dinner with my sister, her new twins and beautiful husband. There is something miraculous about their house: it is a haven of peace. Two infants, two new careers: Yoga and Photography, so not much money. But everything works. When you want something, with your eyes closed, you reach to the place and there it is, clean and ready to go.

With my ever-perceptive sister I got a conversation on cords going, something I had started noticing with increasing excitement. Katie got all animated too. "Yes, the way Jorge wraps the cord around the hairdryer, I was so moved when I first saw it". Jorge is the one who brought the orderliness to the family. Not forced, but seduced us into it. With excellent results. Anyway, a hairdryer was found and a demo was given.

Cord management, Jorge style

Jorge started explaining: "Professional photographers can't just do that thumb-to-elbow winding thing, because if you do, every turn twists the chord, and the kink stays. Then when you need to roll it out quickly for a shoot, it just doesn't obey you, it goes its own way, and you miss the shot".

A week later, my first day in Copenhagen this trip, I got lucky and got invited on a yacht party. Gorgeous food, gorgeous Danish men, but what really impressed me was the ropes.

On a boat, a few seconds delay can result in getting overturned, and never coming back. Captians go to the bother of being 'ship shape' due to consequences that are less forgiving than those found in other professions.

I'll search my archive for a better photo. The hand grabbing my bunny is Michael Reppy's, my sailor-friend. He is in my old Tokyo kitchen, and wearing 4 things: sunglasses, sandals, t shirt and shorts.
He's wearing the sunglasses because he doesn't have a bag to put them in.
In fact, he doesn't have anything but these 4 things. Not a passport, not one Yen. Or dollar. He was sailing solo from San Fransisco to Tokyo on the Naia, ripping through the Pacific on this fast little boat, and a day away from arriving as a hero. He was two days ahead of the current transPacific world record.
The media attention he was to receive was going to the cause he was sailing for: to save a family of recently captured killer whales, that were starving themselves to death in a Tokyo aquarium.
He fell asleep, and woke up to the buzzing sound of a boat going way to fast. "If I hadn't paused to put my sandals on, if I'd just jumped up on deck and cut down the sail..."He spent a few seconds too long, the boat overturned, and he was fished out of the ocean by a passing freighter.

On a ship, in life, a few extra seconds at the right time can change an awful lot.

Here is another cord picture from Copenhagen. A style of cord arrangement familar to suburban Australians. Note the shoelaces too.

The song of these street musicians was just notes in air, but it had the power to stop traffic. There we were, a crowd of people powerless to keep on walking, because the music was just too beautiful. Music to make you feel how sweetly painful love is, remember things you yearned for once, and might again. Beautiful music that appears only a few moments in a year.

I walked around to the front to see about buying their CD, something I rarely do. There was nothing to tell me their name, no price for the C.D. They were surrounded by people with transfixed faces. People who were not buying their C.D.s.
So close yet so far.
Later, when the crowd had subsided, the cardboard had been proped back up, I found their name and even a CD price etched in biro lines. They were talking with a mate, about how hard it was. They were getting gigs, but there were so many obstacles.

What would it take to put together a CD cover that communicates, a sign that works? Some A4 paper, scissors, marker pen and maybe a Google Image search for some fonts. With hands as deft and sensitive as theirs, it would take a few minutes. Maybe about the same as the time they spent trading stories of their struggles with their passing friend that day. But something stopped them. Told them that they didn't have to, maybe told them that they absolutely shouldn't do such a thing.
They keep their obstacles, the world misses out on their songs.

It was a couple of years ago that I first started winding my cords so they didn't tangle, securing them with the black twisty things they come with when purchased. It felt so decadent, and still does. So much undone work around me: taxes to calculate, grant applications to fill in. Yet I persisted: if the Japanese, if wealthy and successful people can afford to wind up their cords, invest time and effort in winding cords, maybe I'm allowed to as well.

Along with my evolving tidy-cord life, my life is having more and more little patches where there is clarity and readiness. Maybe one day soon the patches will join up. Clarity for generativity. Clarity for redeeming lost hours, lost sales, lost boats, lost whales. Clarity and maybe even small giggly children, looking kind of like me.

I'm Australian, we know, from little things, big things grow.

Jorge and Katie, parents of a few hours, glimpsed May 2009

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sado 'The Way of Tea' for beautifying life, Samurai style

"Make your personal life orderly and restrained, to allow you to be violent and daring in your creative life"

This is a paraphrase of a Proust quote I found in the website of the extraordinary Melbourne cosmetic company, Aesop.

I would like my life to be successful in the rare and unique way that Aesop is successful, so I this is advice I wish to take. Which is why today I invited Adam Wojcinski to host the first regular Japanese tea ceremony gathering at my house.

Adam embodying the Tea way of being, inspiring three onlookers.
Look at the posture of his hand, imagine his breathing. Yes, something special.

From 16th Century on, Samurai have been practicing the Zen art of Sado 'The way of tea', to transform themselves into beings deeply efficient and effective in what they do.
Constant adrenaline, constant anxiety would have been a natural, but not useful response to living each day in the shadow of certain violent death.
The rhythmic, ritual actions of tea ceremony would replace the 'fear' mindset with a 'focused' mindset. As anyone who has ever been under threat knows, stress cannot be overcome by impotent attempts at 'relaxing', That's the moment the entrepreneur would loose his company, the student would fail their course. Elite warriors, athletes, businessmen know that clarity, focus, and perfect preparation for the unexpected is the only way to earn the mental stillness that can bring relief and quiet joy.

It seems incongruous at first that the fragile cherry blossom is the symbol of the ferocious Samurai. Then you see the sad truth: both are destined to fall at the moment they achieve their full glory.
With Sado, Samurai found a way to refine their smallest movements, and to beautify the lowliest of their actions. The very action they used to draw water from the kettle on tatami at home would one day be used instinctively in circumstances that would be otherwise petrifying, drawing their bows from horseback as they fled or pursued enemies. Te ceremony cultivated an intensely aware appreciation of the mundane, the present moment, in a life when any cup of tea shared with friends could be your last.

Bamboo whisk, bamboo ladle, tea in its caddy, and the kettle singing softly as water boils over a charcoal hearth.

Igniting the charcoal on the veranda. Once it started glowing, Adam laid it on the impeccably arranged, incense-sprinkled ashes of the brazier before being brought in and seen by the guests. Special permission was sought from AQIS (quarantine) to import this clean-burning tea ceremony charcoal from Japan.

This box of tricks holds implements of feather and bamboo, for deftly arranging matcha (powdered green tea) to evoke a certain atmosphere. The tea in the caddy was sifted carefully, and when I commented that its surface evoked a mossy landscape, Adam said "that's the idea". Even in exile, the samurai may still have a pocket-sized reminder of his carefully tended garden.

Adam shows my sister Katie the ritual way of receiving a bowl of tea. The 'front', which is the most interesting or notable part of the bowl, often a dent or flaw, is presented towards the guest. As the guest raises the bowl to drink, she makes a half-turn, to avoid any disrespect when lips touch the honoured place.

Katie, a teacher of resilience, takes on a joyful look as Adam explains the Sado way of being.
We had recently had a conversation on how it is our flaws, not our perfections, that connect us to each other. Maybe some new refinement of this hope-giving idea just went 'click' at hearing this Sado respect for the imperfect.
In each gesture, refined over centuries, you may suddenly see the answer to a problem of the day, a change of mindset that either solves the problem, or dissolves your distress about it. Here is my insight of the day:
When I saw the state of the soles of Adams pristine Tabi socks, I felt distress that my floor was not as clean as it could be. Beautifying through cleanliness (subtraction), rather than ornament (addition) is a basic tenant of Sado.
Adam had obviously spent hours making everything he brought to my house immaculate, yet assured me it was all completely fine. Suddenly, I believed him. I realized, you don't worry before a battle starts, you just use that energy to get into action, preparing everything you might need. You don't worry after a battle has started either, you just make the most of what you have got, and if you live to fight another, make any changes next time.
Nowhere to worry!
"Hold on tightly, let go lightly". There is no doubt about it though, I will clean the floor with great enthusiasm this time next month.

"Pick up a heavy thing as if it were light, and a light object as if it were heavy"
This is one of the many sayings of Rikkyu, a great figure in Sado. I first heard this principle of successful action in a tea class when I was worrying about how to communicate something delicate to a housemate. It transformed how I handle conflict before it becomes conflict.
I'm looking joyful here as I pick up this feather-light bamboo whisk, and for good reason.
These days I've been noticing how the blithe way I just strew things around ruins my life. All the time I waste searching for documents, fossicking for change in my handbag, could be reclaimed, if only I put things down with mindfulness and respect for what their next function would be.

With this whisk, Adam just taught me the other half of "heavy as if light', stabilizing my hand to the floor as I grasp it, and using 'Zanshin' when I put it back down - withdrawing my hand with a wistful feeling of departure, not an abrupt discounting of the object, as if we never had a relationship. This mindset, Adam explained, was how samurai were trained to withdraw their swords after dealing with an opponent, acknowledging the significance of what had happened, their once-in-a-lifetime connection.

After drinking the tea, the host then allows us to appreciatively view the implements, usually asking who made them, a chance to hear any stories about them. Praise or display of financial value is not in the 'wabi' spirit of Tea. We are generally unaware, but even highly cultivated people in the past owned very few objects, and according to Feng Shui, every object you own has some power over you.
Here I ask if the tea scoop has a nickname. 'Ume no Kaori' (scent of plum blossom) was Adam's reply, a name appropriate for a utensil used in winter, which came to him as he was passing by plum trees in blossom the other day.

When younger, Adam won a scholarship, and spent many months in Hiroshima studying full-time sect of tea established by the Samurai Ueda Soko in the 16th Century. To be in the presence of mastery, of any kind, is a mesmerizing experience. The elegant effortlessness of Adam's movement comes from many hours of great effort. And where does great effort come from? You can feel it, its in the room. "Passion", said Adam. "You can't do anything to stop it".

Adam holds open Tea Ceremony classes in South Yarra, Melbourne, every Saturday morning. 0409 353 370