The Enchanted Season

"this world is/
another world, we are/
in cherry time" teikyû
"this world is/ another world, we are/ in cherry time" teikyû

Ballet-slipper pink, wedding-dress white, purest cameo; blossoms are crowning the streets of Vancouver in this, the enchanted season.

 

In our time, flowers of the cherry, plum and magnolia have never bloomed so profusely, luxuriously, endlessly. Trees of akebono, amanagowa, grandiflora, kiku shidare, pieris japonica, pendula, stellata, taihoku, yoshino: mellifluous names, luscious as their blossoms.

In the fullness of sun, the absence of rain and non-occurrence of wind, fragile petals have lingered on and on for days.

Could there be a better time, thirteen months into a pandemic, for looking up?

A better reminder of patience than observing the tight bud of a magnolia unfolding, leisurely, into a teacup of petals: varicolours of porcelain pink; inside, milky white?

“But I can’t see anymore,” my mom says when I describe the clusters of shell-pink blossoms adorning our street.

You may remember Sakura, a post in which we mentioned Cherry Blossom Epiphany, 3,000 haiku selected, translated & explicated. In this book for springtime, Robin Gill presents Japanese haikus from centuries past, many with various translations. Daily, I have been reading a selection of these haikus to mom, each of us choosing our favourite translation when more than one is offered. Here’s an example from Chapter 1, “Waiting for the Bloom,” in which Robin offers his variations of a poem by tantan (1673-1761) on the Japanese custom of making special trips to see particular cherry trees.

wanting to see them
in the morning, i sleep
with the blossoms

a real blossom trip
leaving at night
to see them in the morning

Mom, unfussed by her fading memory (and asking, almost daily “Do we have cherry trees in Saskatchewan?”), especially liked “fuzzy recollection” by saigyô (1190). She prefers the second translation.

loving blossoms
takes a spring mind
but who recalls
their age when first
swept off their feet?

our true love
for flowers flows from
a spring heart:
how old was I when
i first fell for them?

She liked this poem, also by saigyô, in the chapter “Babushka, or Old Dame Cherry,” its philosophy very much hers.

what flower
ever forgets about
the spring
so wait calmly and
just let life go on

Yesterday, Magellan walked over to the VPL to pick up a book I had on hold called The Sakura Obssession. In it, Hiroshi Saitô, Japan’s ambassador to the United States in the 1930s, is quoted comparing cherry blossoms to roses:

There is earnestness in the rose, but animation in the cherry. The rose holds to life till the very last, while the cherry makes light of death and dances down in the breeze.

The rose with its thorns stands for rights, while the cherry for duty with its unobtrusive colour. The rose is individualistic and self-assertive, the cherry is to be enjoyed in clusters, each flower losing its individuality in the making of the whole.

But the cherry and the rose have one thing in common: beauty, which is a joy forever.

In the chapter “Late Cherry,” four translations were presented for an undated poem by ichiyo. Mom couldn’t decide between these two. Your preference?

the late cherry
would stay a spell longer
in spring’s bed.

not yet ready
to let go of her spring
the late cherry.

The title of today’s blog and its last words come from “The Enchantment Season,” a poetic tribute to the ephemerality of cherry blossoms in The New York Times by a young American woman of Japanese descent named Hanya Yanagihara.

The pleasure of seeing a cherry tree bloom is the sorrow of knowing it will soon be over. To be in the presence of one is to be humbled before nature, and moreover, to be welcoming of that humiliation. A sakura is the human life condensed into the period of a week: a birth, a wild, brief glory, a death. It is to us what we are to the sweep of time—a millisecond of beauty, a memory before we are even through.

The quintessence of the enchanted season, what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, appreciating beauty in nature that is imperfect, impermanent, incomplete.

These are the days for to look for beauty, to hold fast the memory, to be enchanted.

 

Navigation

Abe, Naoke. The Sakura Obsession. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. Subtitled “The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan’s Cherry Blossoms,” Naoko tells the story of Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram. From ten wild species more than 400 flowering varieties had been cultivated in Japan over 1,200 years, beginning in the eight century. A  philosophical desire for cultural homogeneity led to the horticultural sameness in the twentieth century; seven of every ten specimens of cherry trees in Japan were Somei-yoshino. Because they are clones, the flowers of this tree bloom together and only survive for eight days, or less. Thanks to the reintroduction of ancient species in Japan and around the world by “Cherry” Ingram, Japan (like Vancouver) now has a kaleidoscopic cascade of soft-pink and gossamer-white blossoms that stretch the hanami season to two months. A renaissance of cherry blossoms.

Gill, Robin D. Cherry Blossom Epiphany. USA: Paraverse Press, 2007. The Poetry and Philosophy of a Flowering Tree, a Theme in Praise of Olde Haiku, with Many More Poems and Fine Elaboration—well-fingered are the pages of this 720-page volume during the enchantment season.

Hanya Yanagihara.  “The Enchantment Season.” The NYT Style Magazine. November 17, 2019.

For more info on Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival, connect here. And to see the video “In Full Bloom,” drone shots of Vancouver in blossom season, click here.

 

12 Responses

  1. Gorgeous, thanks yet again! The only blossoms here near Saskatoon that I notice are crocus and dandelion as of earlier in April. Dandelions get a bad rap, I love the bright faces.
    We will soon have lilac, plum, pear and many other native plant blossoms here. The grass flowers are not as noticeable, but very important. The North American phenology networks are reporting early blossoming of lilac, for example, by weeks compared with decades ago. The Japanese are also reporting much earlier blossoming times, for example.

    1. Today in Steveston, the first lilacs, still tightly budded but a few mauve florets unfolding. Dandelions! So agree with your attitude and this year they seem brighter than ever, their yellow heads of “hair” so thick.

  2. Spring indeed is the time for renewal, what better way to showcase the arrival of spring than exhilarating photos of “Mother Natures”offerings.
    So nice to see the returning birds and waterfowl, both the colors and sounds to awaken ones senses from a winter of almost colourless solitude.
    Next we await arrival of the new growth from the animal kingdom along with the awakening of those that slept the winter away.

    Cheers for spring👍👍👍👍👍

    Awesome pictures.

  3. Beautiful pictures! A real tribute to spring. Your post brought back memories of the Japanese blossom parties you used to host in Calgary – such good times!

    1. How great that you reminded us of our June blossom parties for 60 people in Calgary in our Japanese-style backyard—in writing this, both of us had completely forgotten about them!

  4. Love the blossoms and the pink snow that follows the weeks of blooms. So lucky to live here and get to enjoy the beauty…

  5. Absolutely gorgeous! You never cease to amaze us each Sunday morning. Thank you for 300 blogs and your love of travel shared with family, friends and strangers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Lower Antelope Canyon
Destinations
Magellan

Drinking In Utah

Utah is like a Michelin-starred restaurant with a wine list hundreds of entries long. Do you prefer red—the colour of its predominant terroir begging to

Read More »
Art & Architecture
Spice

The Leopard

It was almost a decade ago our book club started so I don’t recall whether gratitude goes to Teresa, Anna, Susan or Ed (or me?)

Read More »
Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences
Art & Architecture
Spice

Curves and Tension

“It’s so quiet. Stunning architecture, but where is everybody?” Our main reason for visiting Valencia was to see “starchitect” Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and

Read More »
Destinations
Spice

Natural Bridges

It was early evening by the time we arrived, our hopes of getting a campsite diminished given that Natural Bridges Campground is highly desirable and

Read More »
Hvardalir
Destinations
Spice

Hot Place 

Hveradalir was the main reason we rented a 4×4 in Iceland—you need one to reach this geothermal wonderland in the Central Highlands, one of most active volcano

Read More »
Destinations
Spice

Cetli’s

Local knowledge. It wasn’t listed in the New York Times 36 Hours in Tulum. We hadn’t heard about it from friends who’d been to Tulum.

Read More »