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.
This particular tea gathering evolved after a praying mantis had a bad final molt, which left her without the full function of her front legs, which are used to catch and hold prey. Over time, I learned a lot about the relationship between the praying mantis’ “hands” and mouth, in addition to catching insects and dispatching them as quickly as possible, as praying mantids only eat live prey. This became a weekly ritual, to keep her fed. Becoming a surrogate pair of mantis legs allowed me to have a deeper connection and recognition with this particular insect (and to the insects she ate, surprisingly) in a novel way.
*by Sen Soshitsu XV, Grand Master of the Urasenke Tradition of Tea