Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I had tea on a mountain with a Monk

Dianmu “the goddess governing thunder and lighting” has decided to show her face. Windy and wet barely describes it. Its raining sideways, the wind is howling through the building, and the electricity, which I hope manages to survive all this, is flickering. I am sitting here watching CNN and thinking about the amazing experience I just had on the side of one of the nearby mountains. Ten of us visited a1000 year old temple to meditate and have tea. It was a beautiful place and despite the weather the experience was incredible.
When we arrived at the festival today we were greeted by deafening bells. They were ringing sideways. The weather was not yet full of soaking rains, it was misting and the winds were picking up. We went about our day, attending artist the workshops, visiting the various vendors to make last minute purchases, and eating our meals despite the weather. In the afternoon I was supposed to demonstrate my work at the International Artist Tent. I sat down at the wheel promptly after lunch where we dined on a meal of cold noodles in soy milk ( not one of my favorites). I was told within minutes, as I sat there at an electric wheel in a puddle of water and the wind knocking over stalls around me, that my demonstration was canceled. I was both relieved because of the conditions and saddened because I had wanted the chance to work with the Celadon clay. I wanted to know how clay on this side of the world would respond to my touch not to unlike learning how it is the people interact upon meeting with me. Its a form of communication. I wanted to know how much I would need to change the choreography of my fingers to have a conversation with that material.
I headed up to the afternoon workshops somewhat defeated. I was interested in what was going on, and took copious notes. I even had a discussion with several of the artists sitting around me about the techniques being used. I must say with some amount of certainty the visual information will eventually makes it way out of my head and into my work, but I still longed to play with the material. I looked around me and realized that there was a sleeve of open clay sitting right next to me. I silently grabbed a handful and started to create an ocarina of a fish. I noticed that the clay had a slightly different texture and feel to it yet it was not entirely to foreign to me. It reminded me of a Miller Clay body (900) that I always want to purchase for myself but never do because I always forget about it and go with the familiar despite liking the new far better. Like the man that sat next to me on the plane, the communication gap was only a small problem. There was a relationship with the clay that was inherent just like humanity is inherent. I completed the fish as best I could with not tools and I took some photos and called it a day.
We left the studio with an hour to kill and ended up at the pub for a beer and soju. This time we were joined by many more of our colleagues. There were 10 of us instead of the usual 6. It was a nice ending to our experience at the festival. We headed to dinner shortly after. I was embarrassed by how hungry I was. I had not really eaten lunch, I was completely buzzed and I dove into the rice, almost inhaling it. One thing about this culture I have learned is that it is very straight forward. They will say something that an American might think is rude or unapproachable. I was embarrassed because I was asked to slow down. I apologized and recoiled a bit. Not too long after that a small group of us made our way up a mountainside with a monk to have tea. I was sitting next to the monk and he started to ask me questions about my religion. I answered simply that I was raised Catholic but was not entirely sure that was what I would consider myself. I then asked him if he ever read Thomas Murton. He had not, but after our conversation was fascinated that a Catholic monk would be so open to Buddhism that he would make that central to his approach in his experience of his own faith essentially using the teachings of one religion to gain a deeper understanding of another. We spoke a bit more about philosophy and drank some more tea. Winding down our time at the temple. I kindly purchased some tea and on the drive home found myself wishing that I could have stayed longer.

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