Monday, February 1, 2010

Best in Show: The Competitive Sport Of...


Ikebana is a traditional Japanese art enduring for hundreds of years. And just like Trekkies, Dog Show Trainers, or any fringe group that takes their hobby or craft extremely seriously, so do Ikebana flower artists. In fact, there's a whole spiritual philosophy behind it.
That's why I should have known better about entering an Ikebana Flower Show in Japan.

If I'm completely honest, there were signs all last week among the other participants in my class that should have clued me in to the importance of it. BUT I chocked up all their anxiety about preparing for the show to- I don't know- Japanese over the top perfectionism (which they tend to exhibit)
THEM: "Have you chosen your flowers yet?"
ME: "Uh no, I thought I'd just buy whatever is on sale."

THEM: "What vase are you going to use?"
ME: "I'll just use the same training vase I started with."

THEM: "What arrangement are you going to do?"
ME: "Uh..."

I just didn't think it was THAT big of a deal. Come on, they're just flowers!

Well, now I wish I had heeded the warnings, because I ended up feeling ASHAMED.

First off, I was wholly unprepared during the set up. I never even considered how I would get water into my vase. Everyone else brought little brooms and clean up supplies, plenty of newspaper to cover their work surface, and even flower food!
I think some of the other Ikebana ladies must have felt sorry for me because they pitched in and lent me all the supplies I needed.

They also tried to give me encouragement too when they saw my final product by saying things like, "Nice Colors."

(which incidentally is about the same as saying "nice font" about someone's research paper)

I even walked away for a moment and upon returning, I saw my Ikebana sensei hovering over my flowers, adjusting things, bending branches, and adding greenery until it looked a little better.

That's when the shame hit me.

At that moment, I realized the Ikebana show was not really about me or the other participants. It was about reflecting well on our Ikebana teacher, and I never even considered that.

In case you're are wondering... no, none of the pictures are my flowers. I cannot reveal my arrangement online since it looked like a weed wacker got to it. Seriously, it was the ugliest one in there.

Have you ever participated in something thinking it was no big deal and then found yourself in over your head?


Chris and Amy said...

I haven't, but it's because until recently I was too wimpy to try things I wasn't sure I was good at. I think it's great you took a chance and I'm going to keep trying to be more daring as well. :) Thanks for sharing.

Miss Footloose said...

I know this wasn't funny to you, but your story gave me a good laugh. Not bad for a freezing, snowy Monday morning in my corner of the globe.

As an expat living in a foreign country you cannot help but encounter these types of situations. I'm trying to think about my goofs publicly but I have blocked them out ;)

Unless it was the time I was forced onto the dance floor in Armenia mere days after arrival there and had to dance in view of a restaurant full of people watching and waiting to see what I'd do. Armenians don't dance like we do. They move there arms and hands up in the air and do a lot of hip gyrating. Well, I thought, the hell with it, and tried to imitate them. Too bad I cannot show you a picture, but you can be sure I made a total fool of myself, this in a country where image is everything ...

In your case, the teacher, knowing you were a foreigner, should have been more aware during the lessons of your not "getting it" perhaps. Hey, don't feel bad! Life is too short. And kudos for trying. I love flower arranging myself and especially ikabana and contemporary arrangements like you see in Europe some times. I just do it by imitating pictures but thank you for warning me off entering a Japanese competition!

Shannon OD said...

I second the kudos - you did try and that's worth something. On the flip side, I have been humbled a couple of times with something I approached rather blase and then got a bit "schooled" when I found out that it wasn't as casual and easy as I had thought :-)

Ekua said...

Too bad it didn't work out, but it's awesome that you tried. It's been almost a year since I first heard about Ikebana and marveled at the designs at a show. It was pretty clear that it takes a long time to develop your style and know how to prepare for a show. Even people who had done it before were looking at their designs saying, "I wish I'd done ___ blank differently."

And to answer your question in the last line, I feel like that almost everyday about travel blogging/writing ;)

Fly Girl said...

I love Ikebana, I've been trying to sign up for a class that always fills quickly, for a year. I think that your wonderful sense of adventure prompted you to take the class and I think it's great that you tried. DOn't beat yourself up, classes are supposed to be learning experiences and you learned a lot. The last time I tried something that ended up being way over my head was taking a tai chi class at the college I teach at. I took it to push myself out of my intellectual comfort zone and try something physical since I'm very ungraceful and uncoordinated. Well it was waaay out of my comfort zone. All the students were teenagers and able to quickly catch the 20 or so movements we were supposed to memorize. I panicked because no matter how much I practiced, I couldn't get it. I even bought a Tai Chi tape to help me but it takes me a lot longer to synthesize movement than the average person. My 60-year-old teacher took pity on me and didn't allow the class to critique my final performance (it was not good) but I don't regret the experience.

Rambles with Reese said...

I've never been interested in flowers or plants, other than taking pictures of them....however, I can completely empathize with your shame and embarassment. At least you have the honesty and courage to admit to it.

And I agree with Chris and Amy. I think it's great you took a chance too!! I'm usually too afraid....


Mary and Sean said...

Thanks everyone! I showed my face at ikebana class this morning, and it went off without a hitch...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin