The Path to the Tea House

November 23, 2022

A little story, starring you.

You’re going about your busy day. The city swirls all around you as you juggle the to-do list. The commute through traffic, crowded trains, and busses. Emails, meetings, deadlines, taking care of family, friends, and all the ways people count on you. There’s always so much to do.

Then you remember - The Appointment

Excitement? Yes. Other feelings? Also, yes. 

The tasks at hand weigh on you, pulling at your sleeves and demanding more of you. Should you be taking this time away? Doubt dampens your enthusiasm. Do you have the skills and attention this appointment requires of you? What do you desire in this appointment? 

Eventually, the excitement and anticipation overtake doubt and hesitation, accelerating the pulse and flushing your cheeks. 

You make your way through the noisy city, having left unfinished the unfinishable. Amid the cacophony of color, noise, the hustle and bustle, you stand before a wooden gate. Its waist high, breaking the bland expanse of a dun-colored stucco wall. You lay your hand on the gate. It’s weathered and worn but warm from the day’s sun. Beyond the gate, green foliage cast dancing patterns of light and shadows. 

Hand on the gate, you look back at the city and all you should be attending to. Turning away from it, you push the gate. It swings open with a slight resistance, creaking like ancient bones. Stepping onto a gravel path, you enter a verdant tunnel. You walk between maple trees with delicate leave of chartreuse and crimson, plum trees with thick foliage, cherry trees perfuming the air from the last clusters of pale pink blossoms. Twisted wine-red trunks of madrones shine smooth like lacquer, drawing your caress. You walk down the path. The sound of the city gradually, slowly, fades behind you. Gravel crunches underfoot. This path you’ve been on before, many times. Today, how long will the path be? How long do you need it to be? Each visit to this garden, the path changes. Some days the path is longer, much longer. It takes all that time and distance for the din of the city to recede. Red madrones give way to incense cedars and cypress, then to dry rustling and creaking of tall bamboo, arching and swaying far overhead. The path will always be as long as you need it to be. Running and rushing through the garden is no use. You know this from previous visits. You may get to the destination, but the clangor of the city clings, never leaving, intruding its discord into your precious appointment. You breathe deeply. You trust that the path will be as long as it needs to be. 

You pass a stone lantern to the right, made of five carved granite blocks with one hallowed, from which a faint light glows. Further down the path, a roughhewn stone basin spills cool, clear water, bubbling up from somewhere within. Taking a clean handkerchief from your pocket, you notice that you no longer carry the large, heavy bag of work and worry. Your shoulders are lighter. Wash your hands in the water. Cool and soothing. Dry them. Fold the handkerchief neatly and return it to your pocket. A few more steps down the trail, a bend to the right, and the small wood and adobe cottage comes into view. On the left is a simple wooden rack. You lean the last of your armament on it. To the right, a low door. You straighten up, shoulders back, take a few deep breaths, and settle. Bending slightly, you enter…

Is this a real place? 

Yes. No. Possibly.

Yes, it’s based on several of my favorite places in Japan and the West Coast of the United States. It is a traditional tea house in the style of 16th-century Japan. 

No. There is no physical tea garden where the path changes its length and route of its own magical volition. 

Possibly. The gate and path can exist in your mind for each scene – if you wish. 

When artisans create a tea garden and tea house, they incorporate traditional features. Elements such as the lantern, armament rack, and shape of the path are simultaneously functional and deeply symbolic. The garden blends the details into a greater whole, inviting the participants into a contemplative tea experience, into the moment, and an uncluttered mindset. 

Am I contradicting my own caution against elitist and orientalist elevation of Shibari by creating an equivalency with the high-art practice of the tea ceremony (Chanoyu)?

No, I don’t think so. 

I offer this image and visualization as one of many ways we might transition into and out of the scene. This can give language and image to explain the necessity for effective transition and help understand our own and another’s need for it. 

For me, the physical tea gardens are personal and precious places from my childhood. I can see and feel the details richly, helping me to journey into a better state of mind to enjoy the scene. There are days when I have so much on my mind that I can’t seem to settle into enjoying the playtime. It would be easy to blame myself for not being able to drop everything and jump into the scene wholeheartedly. With its sentient and forgiving form, the tea garden allows me to be kind to myself.

The well-meaning directive to simply “be present” isn’t simple or helpful for many of us. It can even aggravate, frustrate, or stoke the sense of inadequacy.

Our imagination is powerful. Your unique visualization might help you to enjoy and get the most out of each encounter. 

Whether walking through an actual tea garden or mentally walking through an imagined one, both can be forms of ritual. Rituals, including secular practices, abound in high art, low brow pleasures, and mundane routines of daily life. Physical or mental preparatory routines 

serve to help us function better, have more joy, or even potentially experience a ‘flow state.’ 

Athletes, whether professional or amateur, do this all the time. So do astronauts, actors, and everyday folks. This includes us pervs and kinksters. 

Your playtime is precious. A short scene where you and yours are fully engaged and present will yield more satisfaction than an extended scene with vaguely scattered attention. 

For some, the transition path is through a tea garden. What will yours be?  


Midori’s Bio

Trailblazing educator, sexologist, artist, and irritant to banality, Midori founded Rope Dojo and ForteFemme: Women’s Dominance Intensive. She penned the first English instruction book on Shibari titled “Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage” in 2001, paving the way for the popularity of rope. Dan Savage calls her the “Super Nova of Kink,” while others affectionately call her Auntie Midori for her cool, tell-it-like-it-is, funny, reality-based teaching. 

She is also the author of “Wild Side Sex,” “Master Han’s Daughter,” and “Silk Threads.”

During this pandemic, learn, laugh, and enjoy her special online classes, events, and art at



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