With December coming to its final close, the preparations for the arrival of the new year are almost complete. Amidst the bustle and work, tea is pared down, made simpler, and more rustic. Mirrored by the ever-weathered look of the waning final days of December, the “chill” that is often celebrated in the 侘寂 wabi-sabi aesthetic of tea comes out more and more.
Favoring objects that are more roughly-hewn, I pair a Korean-inspired 萩焼 Hagi-yaki teabowl with a bamboo 茶杓 chashaku (tea scoop), upon which the 節 fushi (natural bamboo joint) is lobed, uneven, and gnarled.
Juxtaposed to this is a modest lacquered 棗 natsume (tea caddy), crafted by an unknown monk of the 大徳寺 Daitoku-ji temple in Kyōto.
In the warmth of the last charcoal set before the new year, the last kettle of water comes to a boil. The soft scent of incense is barely detectable as each implement is cleaned.
Tea is scooped and a half-ladle of water is poured upon it.
Once whisked, a bright, almost electric-colored foam rises.
The scent of fresh 抹茶 matcha is a gentle wake-up call to celebrate the moment, and the taste of the last sip of the year’s last tea becomes a poignant closure to one of life’s many “gateless gates”.
In the final quiet that comes from making tea, an informal 拝見 haiken (viewing of tea objects) feels like a fitting farewell to the year.
A teabowl cleaned and then turned upside-down to view its 高台 kōdai (foot).
The lacquer tea container set aside to admire is simple charm.
Another year passes by and teaware once used is put away.