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[personal profile] radhardened
As suggested by one of my tweets, I did a bunch of stuff last weekend, and I'm feeling an urge to document it.

On Friday night I attended a photo lecture by National Geographic photographer George Grall on "Life on a Wharf Piling in the Chesapeake Bay". The photos were amazing. I had no idea there were corals and seahorses in the Chesapeake Bay. To be sure, a random look underwater wouldn't make it obvious that there's strange and beautiful life down there, since the bay's waters are often murky and the life can be on the small side for naked-eye viewing. Clearly Grall spent a huge amount of time waiting and strategizing for good shots. On the downside, the lack of spontaneity in his read-verbatim-from-notes presentation was disappointing, but the photos themselves made up for it.

On Saturday morning I participated in a Chesapeake Paddlers Association workshop wherein I continued carving the Greenland-style kayak paddle that I started at the same workshop about three years earlier. Last time I'd managed to plane the sides of the blank and mark it up with a pencil to guide my carving. This time, armed with a borrowed spokeshave, I made progress on the actual carving and quite enjoyed it. Alas, I don't have a spokeshave of my own—does anyone local have a spokeshave I could borrow?

I might have finished carving my paddle had I not had to duck out early for tea ceremony class. At that class I learned my first konarai-level ceremony. (Konarai is a level above the nyumon beginner level; each level at least theoretically requires a license granted by the grand master to study. I received my license to study konarai-level procedures last year.) This particular ceremony that I learned Saturday, called chasen kazari, was one to highlight any of the more utilitarian utensils, like the fresh water container. It wasn't especially tricky.

After class I joined the Mad Science Coffee crowd to play with handcuffs. :) No, nothing naughty, just banal experimentation with locks. I have a decent understanding of how normal handcuffs work now, as well as a realization that I wouldn't be able to pick a properly double-locked pair of handcuffs. Not that that'd probably be my plan if I somehow found my wrists enclosed by a pair of them.

On Sunday I attended the local Urasenke branch's Rikyuki, an annual ceremony that commemorates Sen no Rikyu, the father of Japanese tea ceremony. I had never been to this sort of ceremony before. For this event I tried wearing kimono entirely without in-person dressing assistance for the first time. I did follow along with a kitsuke DVD, and I used a pre-tied tsuke obi, the latter of which could be considered cheating.

Before entering the tearoom my first impression is always the welcoming aroma of the incense. When I entered this time, several things were new to me. For one, several ceramic vases were lined up in a row on the room's low sideboard. For another, a hanging kettle hovered over the burning charcoal in the sunken hearth. And lastly, the alcove contained a footed tray with a burning candle and incense, a vase of nanohana, and a sweet, along with a scroll depicting Rikyu and what I understood to be someone's writing in praise of him.

When our host (also our teacher) entered with a tray of flowers, we learned that each of us guests would dedicate a flower to Rikyu by placing it in one of the empty vases. Arranging flowers in chabana style with a roomful of people watching is a bit tense; I did my best with a pair of small white calla lilies. Next we watched the charcoal arrangement and got a chance to examine the han-neri (marbled ceramic, lit. "half-kneaded") incense container.

For the "snack" of a meal we were each served a tray with an ordinary-sounding but heavenly-tasting chirashi dish (rice with shrimp, grated tamago, lotus root, konnyaku, koyadofu, shiitake, and other stuff), nuta (spring onions dressed with a sweetened miso sauce), and a cup of savory broth with spring greens. After an intermission, we were served the omogashi, a fat teardrop of green yomogi-flavored mochi topped with a dollop of sweetened mashed azuki beans.

Then we were each served a bowl of thin tea. The most interesting utensil was the matcha caddy, a repurposed French glass vessel painted with a silhouetted scene of plants and birds. Sensei used a koukoudana style of utensil stand (one of Rikyu's favorite styles, naturally), a fresh water container made by Willi Singleton, and a tripod lid stand to evoke the tripod kettle trivet that is missing when we use a hanging kettle.

After the ceremony, I had a meeting to plan for this upcoming Saturday's Spring Chakai at the Sackler Gallery. With the cherry blossom tourist season in full swing and a planned hanami outing on Sunday, I expect I'll be having another adventurous weekend.
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