We pruned the chinquapin in the area of the garden that has a view of Mt. Hiei. Here are some pictures of our gardener removing branches while making sure to maintain a balance with Murin-an’s row of border trees. “It’s an old tree now and its hollows have begun standing out,” he said, as he returned to his pruning work. The area of Murin-an with a view of Mt. Hiei is right around the crouching basin arrangement (tsukubai) on the tea room’s east side. On a clear day, you can enjoy the Mt. Hiei landscape from here.
Even during winter, the grass on the Japanese sweetflag at the foot of Murin-an’s three-stage waterfall stays a lush green. We maintain this green scenery by periodically thinning away dead leaves or old and yellow leaves for the sake of the next generation. “Even with just a little care, you can pull out lots of yellow leaves and stems,” said our gardener, as his winnowing basket (temi) quicklly filled up with dead leaves.
On the afternoon of February 5 (Wed.), we held a wild bird mini-lecture in Murin-an’s 8-tatami mat space. The theme of this lecture was the Goosander, a bird whose characteristic is its bill, which has serrated edges like that of a saw. We began by discussing how this bird’s Japanese name (kawa-aisa) is an allusion to the fact that it comes to the river just after the end of autumn, and then introduced poems written about the Goosander in the Manyoshu (an 8th century poetry anthology), its ecology, the difference between brood amalgamation and a crèche, and the reason that wild birds lost the serrated edges on their bills.
On February 6 (Thurs.), just before Murin-an opened, the first snow of the year fell inside the garden. A light snowfall fluttered down from the sky, covering moss and grass in a light blanket of snow.
Murin-an Garden’s stream begins with its three-stage waterfall. The waterfall’s crest features both the dynamic sound of the stream and the white look of water falling in a sheet, and the marsh flowing out from this area allows the light rhythmical movement of the water to be enjoyed. Look back toward the main house and you can see a scene that evokes the aura of lush green moss under a spreading sky after the autumn leaves have fallen.
Partly because it has been a little warmer than usual this year, these little white buds have been blooming early, one after another. When so many flowers bloom that they hang downward, then we can enjoy their faintly sweet fragrance along the maple grove’s garden path.
On the afternoon of February 2 (Sun.), we held another lecture in our chanoyu lecture series. This time, our theme was “tea flowers” (chabana). We discussed the history of tea flowers and then had participants arrange tea flowers themselves. Everyone enjoyed arranging the flowers as they learned how to choose them and also about “forbidden flowers” (kinka).
On the afternoon of January 8 (Wed.), we held a wild bird mini-lecture on the 8-tatami mat space on the main house’s first floor. We discussed the traits of the Falcated Duck, a winter migratory bird whose males wear decorative feathers when courting females. There were many points that drew people’s attention today, from the connection between Napoleon’s hat and the heads of these ducks, to the three types of feathers that they use to fly. At the end of the lecture, we handed out print-outs showing how to tell apart the ducks seen at Murin-an and in the surrounding area.
We tended to Murin-an’s second largest red pine (akamatsu). After pruning and plucking needles from the red pine growing on the northeast side of the tearoom, there’s now a bright view that goes all the way back to the garden’s lawn and central area.
On January 3 and 4 (Fri. and Sat.), we held tea ceremony lessons on the second floor of Murin-an’s main house. Here are some pictures of our students welcoming the new year with the instructor. After exchanging New Year’s greetings, they began step-by-step lesson instruction. In accordance with the season, their conversation included a discussion of the New Year’s tea reception (known as “hatsugama,” meaning “first kettle”) which was enjoyed by all.