This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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About cherry blossoms and the brevity of it all


If there were no cherry blossoms in the world
My mind would be peaceful

(Fujiwara Norihira)

When cherries bloom, the Japanese celebrate the beauty and fleeting nature of life. Not life as a continued existence, or life as an eternal soul. But life as that short moment of seven days where a cherry blossom opens, blooms, and drops its petals to the ground like snowfall. Life that, after blooming, has yielded a fruit and another life.

We Westerners mostly celebrate life without including its end, whatever it may be. Death, or transit to rebirth, is always a separate subject for attention. Standing under the pink cherry blossom boughs I wondered how it would feel to celebrate life, including the brevity of life as we know it. And yet, most of the sakura poetry I have stumbled upon is concerned with that brief moment when a cherry blossom petal falls to the ground. Life is uncertain, and the petal knows no more of its destiny than do we humans of our own fates.

A fallen blossom
Returning to the bough, I thought –
But no, a butterfly

(Arakida Moritake)

(Hanami festival, Helsinki, Finland; May 2015)

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Stillness, milk oolong tea, and Things that make one’s heart beat faster

asioitaOne stormy March day I am dreaming of cherries in bloom across the globe in Kyoto. I am forgetting place and time while I learn about the mysterious lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon, the author behind The Pillow Book. I am forgetting my country while I experience Japan through the writing of a Finnish woman who left her job to discover a soul sister who lived 1000 years ago and who loved making lists of things that made her heart beat faster.

And I am trying to imagine that world 1000 years ago, where one’s respect was measured by one’s skill to write poetic verse. Where one’s beauty was measured by how many layers of kimono one carried on top of each other. And where women were never seen in public, and seldom even within their own house. Except for Sei Shonagon, who did not care much about what was thought of her.

(Helsinki, Finland; March 2015)