Learning Chado (1): Audrey Tuckerman

06 Nov Learning Chado (1): Audrey Tuckerman

‘Learning tea’ is probably a foreign concept for most Americans, so we are going to invite our tea school members to write/talk about Chado and learning tea. We start the series with Audrey Tuckerman, a student at Shofuso Japanese Garden.

-When did you start to take tea ceremony lesson? Why, or what made you get interested in Chado?

I started learning tea ceremony about three years ago.  I became interested because I have always had an interest in all sorts of tea cultures from around the world.  My friend, Ai, took me to a tea ceremony in Japan and it was so beautiful.  When I saw that Shofuso offered lessons in Japanese tea ceremony, I was immediately interested.  I asked Mom (Gail) to join me so that we could learn something together.  And here we are!

– Why didn’t you quit after the first lesson (seriously)? What makes you come back to class?

I don’t think quitting after the first lesson ever crossed our minds.  We were fascinated by the level of detail involved.  It was a beginning to discovering a whole new world.  There are so many reasons to keep going to class.  I feel a close connection to my classmates, and there is always so much to learn!  Besides, being at tea is a relief from the ongoing stresses of daily life.

– How do you explain your ‘practicing tea’ to normal/non-tea Americans?

When the subject comes up about learning Japanese tea ceremony, most people are very curious.  Even though coffee is the preferred beverage here, just about everyone knows of tea.  However, once you add the word ceremony to it, people are suddenly very interested.  In the US, ceremonies are rare occasions that are meant for very large, milestone events such as the Olympics, a presidential inauguration, a graduation, or a wedding.  To have a ceremony for something that would otherwise be commonplace is a bit of a foreign concept to us.  The short way I describe it to people who have never heard of it is to say it is a highly detailed sort of meditation practice.

– What’s the best and worst thing about learning tea?

The best thing about learning tea is difficult to pinpoint.  I’ll give a fun answer and a serious answer.  It is no secret to my classmates that my favorite parts involve eating the tea sweets!  But the serious answer is that I take what we learn everywhere I go.  I try to live more in the present and be more aware of both myself and my surroundings.

There is no such thing as a “worst part” of tea.  No, I take that back… maybe a poorly whisked bowl of chunky tea might be pretty bad!  But the most challenging part of tea for me, personally, as an American, is the physical aspect.  It is widely known that Japanese culture is considered a “floor” culture, meaning that there isn’t a use of chairs or furniture.  You quite literally sit on the floor and work on the floor.  Because this is so drastically different from how we operate in the west, it leaves some of us with VERY sore knees, ankles, and hips!!!

– Any further comment about tea/Chado?

One thing I would like to add about being an American studying Japanese tea ceremony is that I often feel self conscious.  Because the cultures are so different, especially in regard to levels of courtesy, I’m often afraid that I am going to accidentally do something rude or insulting.  So a lot of times I get very nervous in class.  Because I am not Japanese myself, I feel like there is extra pressure to represent the art form as absolutely accurately as I can so as not to be disrespectful.

– Okay, passing this to Morgan or your mom, anything for them?

Question for Mom, Morgan, and anyone else!  What is your most memorable “chashitsu-drama” moment?!

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