The phrase “ichi-go, ichi-e” can be loosely translated as “every encounter is once in a lifetime*”. In the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony, it means that every tea gathering is special, and though it may be repeated, it will never be repeated exactly, so cherish the moment. Serving “tea” to non-humans expresses this sentiment in a unique way, as there is no mutual agreement about choreography or relationship.
As a meditative process, the tea ceremony presents a simple action but requires focus to such an extent that all thoughts not pertaining to the ceremony fall away, leaving one to solely exist in the moment of serving and enjoying tea. The ceremony acts as a template, upon which both host and guest are free to express their individual personalities. The intent is not to train an animal to follow the prescribed sequences of the ceremony, but to highlight the transient, unique relationship between the host and guest.
The ceremony can be generally divided into three sequences- 1. Greetings and ritual purification of tea-making equipment 2. Making, serving, and drinking tea 3. Re-purification, presentation, and closing of the tea-making equipment. Though the ceremony is somewhat formal, the setting in which it takes place is informal. I chose this because I wanted to blur boundaries between not only a consecrated space and a banal space, but also what might be considered boundaries between animal/human or nature/city.
During this particular tea gathering, I was struck by the active participation and observation by the guest, Kiki (a cat). I was particularly surprised by his inspection of the tea-making equipment, using his highly developed sense of smell. The more times I watch, I realize that it seems less about ritual and more about spontaneous choreography between two species; less about linear narrative, and more about what can be revealed by the abstract, compositional relationships between forms and temporal merging/dispersal of silhouettes. Also noteworthy, by the end of the temae, Kiki was anticipating and even leading me through the actions, exiting and entering at the proper moments, though I had never attempted to get him to do so.
*by Sen Soshitsu XV, Grand Master of the Urasenke Tradition of Tea