Friday, April 18, 2014

15. 虹始見: "The First Rainbows Appear"

(BGM: "사랑하면할수록 Sarang Ha Myeon Hal Su Rok" by Han Sung Min)

Rainbow strikes near the village of Takatsuki, Nagahama (Shiga).

Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
晩春 Banshun: "Late Spring"
Season No. 5: 清明, Seimei: 
"Clear And Bright"  

Rainbow Over Ohmi (Shiga).
Climate No. 15: 虹始見
Niji Hajimete Arawaru: 
"The First Rainbows Appear"
(April 14 -April 19)

The sky changes restlessly now, shifting effortlessly between neon blue and unsettled gray. Though the rainy season is officially two months away, people go to work with folded umbrellas in hand, prepared should the skies suddenly darken and dump their liquid sunshine without warning. It's hard to dress in the mornings. The noontime sun teases us with heat just warm enough for a long-sleeved shirt minus coat. But we all know we will shiver come evening from the cold stored up in the walls. The body can't keep up with these constant changes, and so the dreaded influenza virus runs rampant along city trainlines and in public schools (as if the cedar pollen allergy wasn't enough!).

Yet in my heart, I feel a sense of elation. A fan of the rain and cold, I relish every icy wind gust while they still blow. The earth needs as much water as it can hold for the hot summer months just around the bend. And so when it rains, I rejoice, especially when the sun decides to play hide-and-seek with the clouds, laughing in wide grins of color.

Representing the elusive connection between the divine and mundane, these luminescent, shimmering bridges to Heaven are the stuff of lovesongs and faery tales, fading in and out gently like pleasant memories. Most people I know view rainbows as symbols of joy, forgiveness and deliverance.

But for the longest time, I saw rainbows as proof of my unhappiness, of things I wanted but probably could never have. Unfulfilling job? I could surely find a better one over the rainbow. No money? There was a pot of gold with my name on it at the end of said rainbow. In a lame relationship? My heart's true love was definitley waiting for me somewhere under that same rainbow (but playing hard-to-get, no doubt).

Quite recently, my discontent had nearly gotten the better of me. I thought I wasn't satisfied with my lot in life, that the good times had passed and that I was screwed from here on in. Though I had a tender and attentive husband, a sweet pad in the middle of Heaven on Earth and the best friends and family on the planet, it still wasn't enough for me. I thought I was lacking, needing to control and chase until I finally seized what I thought was missing. (Though whenever I chase, I only seem to wind up lonelier than before. Funny, that).

This time, ironically, it took a rainbow for me to see that I have all I could ever need.

On our anniversary, my Hubby and I braved storm conditions to climb to the top of Mt. Senkoji (Onomichi, Hiroshima) in the gusty wind and flying rain, dodging people trying to get off the mountain. Right when we stepped onto the platform to admire the sea of cherry trees down below in full bloom, in front of us stretched a glittering rainbow, second in brightness only to the sun on the opposite skyline. As I watched his coffee eyes sparkle in amazement and wonder, I felt a joy in my heart, like I'd seen the face of God and lived to tell the tale.

It made me realize an undeniable truth in my life: though we don't own a single thing symbolic of affluence, success or wealth in earthly terms, we still have each other's friendship, and the ability to mutually savor a moment in all its sweetness. I dare say it's enough, in a world where it's so hard for anyone to recognize when they've found happiness. I need not look for more. Besides, to yearn is to depreciate the universe I already hold in the palm of my hand.

Our Anniversary Gift from Onomichi (Hiroshima).
I'm pleased to announce that rainbows, to me, now represent fulfilment. :-)

Flower of the Season: 藤, Fuji, Wisteria 

Lush wisteria graces a streetside park (Kurashiki, Okayama).
With the whisper-pink sakura blossoms fluttering to the ground in a blizzard of petals, the annual flower color palette shifts slowly through the spectrum into purples and soft violets.

Lavender-colored wisteria spills over a trellis in Tone, Ibaraki (2006).
My absolute favorite of these is the wisteria, a creeping vine that wraps itself stealthily around trees and trellises. Like wayward lupine hanging upside-down, the bluish-purple and white blossoms spill down and sway like an Aleutian beaded headdress, exuding a sensuous, woodsy perfume reminiscent of temple incense. They can be found all over the country, decorating front porches in the form of meticulously pruned potted bonsai, or twisting untamed around lower mountain trees.

Wisteria on display at Sankei-en Gardens (near Hiroshima Int'l Airport).
The Japanese are quite fond of this prolific flower, one of its many native beauties. Symbolic of love, patience, and longevity, this lush, fragrant member of the Pea family makes its appearance in practically every expression of traditional art, from kimono fabric and poetry to kabuki dance. The wisteria's thick, expanive foliage has been employed by gardeners for centuries as the shade plant of choice. A cascade of soothing, cool wisteria flowers can calm a tired soul, bringing the mind gently back to a state of peace and stability:

   Seeking an inn
     Wisteria flowers."  -Matsuo Basho
Purple rain in the backyard of a lucky home in Takehara, Hiroshima.
From late April to the middle of May, flower parks and temples around Japan display stunning walls and tunnels of wisteria, some of the vines dating back hundreds of years. Completely by chance, we were fortunate to stumble upon the famous Wisteria of Achi (阿智の藤 Achi-no-Fuji) in Kurashiki, Okayama. The oldest Akebono wisteria in Japan, this officially-designated natural monument is reputed to be between 300 to 500 years old and still blooms faithfully on the side of Mt. Tsurugata every year. Just the rootstock alone kept us mesmerized, locked in reverent meditation for a good half an hour.

The massive Achi Wisteria of Kurashiki, Okayama.
To think that this vine was alive before the Industrial Age, before Tokugawa Ieyasu and clipper ships, I, for one, was humbled, as I always am in the presence of the ancient. These everlasting expressions of Nature always remind me of my place in the system, that I am also a living expression of a force older than time, itself. How will my life interpret this energy? Will the final design resemble a straight, rigid bamboo pole or a mass of tangled wisteria roots?

The joy lies in discovery.

Copyright 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All rights reserved. No part of this blog (written or photo content) may be reproduced or reprinted without the expressed permission of the author.

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