A boisterous shove mid-flight from one of the cavorting crows explodes a riot of blossom; the flight of a thousand, thousand petals looking for all the world like a storm, or swarm, or storming swarm/swarming storm, of butterflies. This is my favourite part of the sakura season: the ‘snow’, the way the petals release and are carried in people’s hair, on their clothing, the way they fall like the softest of kisses, almost imperceptible, on the skin. A reverent quiet inheres in the fall of snow, winter or spring. Here, in spring, though, the quiet tumbling of petals is accompanied by sighs. Ah! – how beautiful! Ah! – it’s over?!
Breezy gusts bring in floating remnants of the delicate white-pink confetti which land among the dishes of the feast. The poet sighs at the fleet beauty of the blossoms saying, ‘Hana yori dango’, rather the flowers than food. I have wondered if you can tell something about a person according to which stage of the bloom they like best? Those who like it before the full bloom are likely to be those who prefer Friday morning’s anticipation to Sunday mornings. Are those, like me, who like the snow, Sunday morning people? Are the sakura-snow aficianados better shaped for wistfulness and other kinds of mourning, where the Friday-morning Anticipators do best with preparations and celebrations?
I’m thinking about something I read recently about presence being always and already divided within itself (in Kevin Hart’s Kingdoms of God) and how the Japanese notion of mono (no) aware picks up the exquisite tension of the human consciousness of time passing.
Mono no aware signifies the deep feeling or pathos of things, the powerful emotions that objects can evoke or instill in us. It is often associated with a poignant feeling of transience, a beautiful sadness in the passing of lives and objects . . .
There is no such thing as perfect, pure presence (thus the flourishing of desire); there is no unchanging reality (thus the impetus to vital activity in the present moment). That things change and fade away, that change evokes in us a sensitivity to the emotional and affective dimensions of existence, is an indication of its essential value. What is conveyed by the awareness of impermanence has been dubbed ‘the ah-ness of things’: that spontaneous and inarticulate response to the things that affect us immediately and involutarily before we are able to put that feeling into words.
To the Buddhist priest, Yoshida Kenkou, there was nothing more precious in life that its uncertainty, the dynamism of impermanence. To meet this as gift calls for inner freedom, vision, a good set of priorities, and a special kind of attention and care and gratitude
How is it possible
for people not to rejoice each day
over the pleasure of being alive?
forgetting this pleasure,
laboriously seek [like-minded] others;
forgetting the wealth they possess,
they risk their lives in their greed for new wealth.
But their desires are never satisfied.
While they live they do not rejoice in life, and, when faced with death, they fear it—what could be more illogical?
(Yoshida Kenkou, “Essays in Idleness” trans. Donald Keene)