A fountain of stars has gushed up and leapt over a neighbour’s wall. I see them lit by the sun from my terrace, magnolias looking for all the world like they’re climbing the wavy silver-slate-coloured roof tiles tumbling down from the spine of an old Japanese house.
The laundry flaps nearby.
Petal confetti lie around the skirts of the ornamental plum trees. Our first hope in winter, the plums begin to bloom in late February around the time the baby nightingales start to sing. The unstinting generosity of this song, this ‘fresh-peeled voice’ (Larkin), embroidering lines with brio, thrills me to the core. I wait for it, even hunt for it sometimes, simply to be showered, indiscriminately, in the full, reconciling joy of it. A vivid sign of life, it is one of the things that gets me through the difficult transition from death to life in the often veiled, sometimes turbulent, month of March.
Daphne is another reminder of life, one that comes through the nose. Her small clustered flowers pack a wallop of sugary-citrus fragrance that regularly arrest my feet on paths.
The sun has been out, jackets occasionally unzipped. Bodies are becoming less brittle. Sap is rising.
Buds on the sakura, relaxing knots now, are turning neon yellow-green. Dawdling at breakfast I look through branches over the river and see that the willows alongside the castle moat have suddenly transformed their violently pruned branches back into dipping trains, hippy boas, the same colour as the buds. Evenings at the moat, just after sunset, gazing on the silvery mirror, a swan slowly and surely captures my attention. Dream dancing we are and while I’m thinking-without-thinking of the things going on under water. I see the bird’s reflection and am hypnotised by the grace of those slightly raised wings, that slow ease, the dipping neck. The cold begins to settle and I lift my soul and hasten home.
Some mornings, lately, consciousness has cracked gently into waking accompanied by birdsong, love letters, Ikkyu, the poet, knew. Today, I wake to rain.
Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.
(Thank you, Parker Palmer)
*Rood Lotus is a name I’ve made up in honour of Passion-tide. I recently learned that ‘mokuren’, the Japanese name for magnolia, is a combination of tree+lotus.