One Time, One Meeting

Today, I snapped lots of pictures of wisteria as I walked up the hill to my bench…Wisteria hanging from the eaves, wisteria drooped and draping over trellises and windows.  It is almost creepy like a monster plant from a B grade movie, but the purple clusters of blooms push it in an Anne of Green Gables direction.  Spring is such a girly girl…Who knew that Nature has her own inner “disney princess” that has to make an appearance once a year.  It’s not in good taste, and rubs the minimalist in me the wrong way, but I love it.

Most of the hour, I just sat and listened to the robins.  Did you know that songbirds have special singing cells that regenerate each spring, and then die back down the rest of the year?  It wasn’t my imagination that they get extra loud and exuberant this time of year.

J. pulled up on his Portland roadbike.  He was going to a “Codger Walk.”  A Codger Walk according to J. is a gathering of retired men who walk together.  “There are codgers who walk together, and there are codgerettes…we walk for an hour, and then we sit and drink coffee for an hour and a half.”  Changing the subject, he told me about the Japanese concept of a living treasure.  “For example, the Grand Canyon is America’s living treasure.  And you are our living treasure here on South Hill.”  I was touched and a bit embarrassed by this absurd comparison between the Grand Canyon and me.  I said, “I think we’re all living treasures in our own funny way…”

My mind returned to the Hiker who had stopped by earlier to tell me that recently he had to decide between whether to take a nap, or go stand on the street corner and warn people about the End of the World.  “I decided to take a nap,” he said.  “You are really funny,” I told him and he looked pleasantly surprised.

Ichi-go ichi-e,” I said, turning my attention back to J.  “It’s a Japanese concept that each moment is unique and nontransferable…Each moment is a treasure.”  Ichigo Ichie means “one opportunity, one encounter.”  Realizing that each encounter is a gift that will never recur encourages us to treat others with a certain reverence.  The phrase is particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony.  The host and the participants cherish the gift of each other’s presence, demonstrating their gratitude with courtesies like bowing and using gentle, humble speech.  In a 19th century text, li Naosuke Tairo of the Tokugawa Shogunate described the ichi-go ichi-e as follows in Chanoyu Ichie Shū:[1]

Great attention should be given to a tea gathering, which we can speak of as “one time, one meeting” (ichigo, ichie). Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day’s gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The host, accordingly, must in true sincerity take the greatest care with every aspect of the gathering and devote himself entirely to ensuring that nothing is rough. The guests, for their part, must understand that the gathering cannot occur again and, appreciating how the host has flawlessly planned it, must also participate with true sincerity. This is what is meant by “one time, one meeting.”[3]

J. continued on his way…I visited with M. until the end of my knit, then walked down the hill amazed at the gift of people and laughter.

P.S. I’ve started posting fun stories about my paintings here connectionsmadevisible.blogspot.com.  I’ll let you know when I post another one 🙂

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