There is something quite gentle about February. As the shortest month of the year, it is the sweetest. Packed with moments to celebrate (Lunar New Year, Valentines Day, Parinirvana Day, Black History Month), the weather, too, offers sublime vignettes into the changing seasons.
What began as an ice-locked month slowly shifts into Spring as the earth below our feet warms, beckoning small blades of green grass to push out from the remaining drifts of crystalline snow. Some days it rains. On other days it snows.
This “Spring snow” is very special. It is light, fluffy, and often is so delicate that it is barely able to accumulate, save for on the still branches of a fir tree or within the rocks and crevasses atop mountains. Called 春雪 shun-setsu (lit. “Spring snow”) in Japanese, its appearance gives a tea person pause to admire the passing of one season into another.
Today, inspired by these light snowflakes (淡雪 awa-yuki in Japanese), I decide to sit down for a bowl of 抹茶 matcha. Pulling out a fine 刷毛目茶碗 hakeme chawan, I pair the falling snow to the distinctive brush marks of white outer glaze that swirl across this teabowl.
For a tea container, I opt for a pure white Korean porcelain (백자 baekja) tea jar. For a tea scoop, I use a fine 茶杓 chashaku fashioned from a piece of dappled 胡麻竹 goma-take bamboo (“seasame bamboo”); the pattern of tiny, randomly-assorted dots fitting for the scattered snowflakes visible from my tearoom window.
The bowl, warmed and cleansed, glows like gusts of whirling white snow blowing against a grey sky.
Pulling scoops of tea powder from the tiny porcelain jar, the bright green tea feels fresh, like the new grass of Spring.
Whipped into a fine, light foam, the muted light of the day makes the matcha appear almost white.
I take a moment to breathe before lifting the teabowl. Silence fills the void of the tearoom. The sound of wind blowing through the pines.
The appearance of tea clinging to the tea scoop’s hand-carved end. The last of Winter fading and the appearance of snow in Spring.
The tea is sipped and the bowl cleansed one more time. The objects are set aside and something overtakes me. How quickly can a month come and go. A lifetime encapsulated in this time. In the shift from one season to the next. In a snowflake falling to the earth.