Suddenly a bee, big as a blackberry, bumbles against my window, knocking for attention. Rolling in azalea cups all morning, she weaves in slow motion then hovers like a helicopter, humming to herself. The key, C major. No black notes, no sharps, no flats. Only naturals—the fan of her own wings, the bliss of her own buzz.
She doesn’t practice. She doesn’t have to. She knows. To make honey, you follow the dance.
~Alice Friman from “The Key”
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. ~Li-Young Lee from “From Blossoms”
These are impossible spring days of color and cool breezes.
A sense of immortality extends across the sky as far as the eye can see.
Impossibly impossible — because I know they won’t last;
this precious time is ephemeral.
Still I revel in it,
moving from joy to joy to joy,
winging like a bee’s buzz singing right on key,
from blossom to blossom,
hovering and settling briefly
and let down gently,
oh so gently,
into the promise
spring someday will last forever.
Beauty, to the Japanese of old, held together the ephemeral with the sacred. Cherry blossoms are most beautiful as they fall, and that experience of appreciation lead the Japanese to consider their mortality. Hakanai bi (ephemeral beauty) denotes sadness, and yet in the awareness of the pathos of life, the Japanese found profound beauty.
For the Japanese, the sense of beauty is deeply tragic, tied to the inevitability of death.
Jesus’ tears were also ephemeral and beautiful. His tears remain with us as an enduring reminder of the Savior who weeps. Rather than to despair, though, Jesus’ tears lead the way to the greatest hope of the resurrection. Rather than suicide, Jesus’ tears lead to abundant life. ~Makoto Fujimura
Everyone feels grief when cherry blossoms scatter. Might they then be tears – those drops of moisture falling in the gentle rains of spring?
~Otomo no Juronushi (late 9th century)
Thoughts still linger – but will those who have parted return once again?
Evening is deep in the hills where cherry blossoms fall.
Again today I will see patients in my clinic who are struggling with depression, who are contemplating whether living another day is worth the pain and effort. Most describe their feelings completely dry-eyed, unwilling to let their emotions flow from inside and flood their outsides. Others sit soaking in tears of hopelessness and despair.
Their weeping moves and reassures me — it is a raw and authentic spilling over when the internal dam is breaking. It is so human, yet we know tears contain the divine.
When I read that Jesus weeps as He witnesses the tears of grief of His dear friends, I am comforted. He understands and feels what we feel, His tears just as plentiful and salty, His overwhelming feelings of love brimming so full they must be let go and cannot be held back.
Jesus who wept with us became a promise of ultimate joy.
There is beauty in this, His rain of tears, the spilling of the divine onto our mortal soil.
A fallen blossom Returning to the bough, I thought – But no, a butterfly.
~Arakida Moritake (1473-1549)
The air was soft, the ground still cold. In the dull pasture where I strolled Was something I could not believe. Dead grass appeared to slide and heave, Though still too frozen-flat to stir, And rocks to twitch and all to blur. What was this rippling of the land? Was matter getting out of hand And making free with natural law, I stopped and blinked, and then I saw A fact as eerie as a dream. There was a subtle flood of steam Moving upon the face of things. It came from standing pools and springs And what of snow was still around; It came of winter’s giving ground So that the freeze was coming out, As when a set mind, blessed by doubt, Relaxes into mother-wit. Flowers, I said, will come of it. ~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”
As the ground softens with spring,
so do I.
Somehow the solid winter freeze was comforting
as nothing appeared to change, stayed static,
so neither did I,
remaining stolid and fixed.
But now, with light and warmth,
the fixed is flexing,
steaming in its labor,
and so must I,
I admit it. Right this minute, I should be doing our taxes. We’re down to the last minute and I have all the paperwork stacked on the desk beside me, but I’m not doing it. It is too miserable a task to even contemplate. Instead I go outside to capture spring.
The last few mornings, when I have risen just before dawn, I have gone outside to breathe deeply of the scents that hang heavy in the cool moist air. The perfume from thousands of orchard blossoms on our farm is heady and intoxicating. There is nothing quite like these two weeks each year when our farm becomes a mass of snow white and pink scented flowers, busy with honey bees and eventually showering petals to the ground as the fruit starts to form.
Unfortunately, I’m allergic to tree pollen. I breathe deeply and… sneeze and wheeze. Even the best medicine can’t stop my reaction. So much loveliness causes so much misery. So I retreat back to the house and look out the window and enjoy the view from afar, dabbing my dripping nose.
Ironically, this is the same time of year our dairy farm neighbors start to empty their manure lagoons and begin to spread their thousands of gallons of liquid manure on the surrounding fields, readying the ground for the hay or corn crop to come later on this summer. That scent hangs heavy in the cool moist air as well, pungent and unforgettable, penetrating even into our clothing so we carry the smell back into the house with us. Of course I’m not allergic to manure. After all, it’s only grass and water transformed. In fact, as nasty a smell as it is, it’s invigorating in a perverse sort of way. I know where it comes from, I know what its potential is, and I know the crop it yields. It is, in itself, as treasured as the blossoms that yield fruit on our farm.
Taxes are the manure in our lives. They are pretty stinky too, just like manure, an inevitable part of our daily existence, yet even more onerous. However, spread out where needed, those collective taxes fertilize and grow our communities, our schools, our roads, our health care (and a few other things we may wish would not be funded).
So I must get to work spreading numbers across my desktop in the hope they may make sense and yield fruit of their own, sometime, somewhere.
Not a color I’ve wanted to wear—too innocently girlish, and I’m not innocent, not a girl. But today the gnarled cherry trees along Alabama Street are decked out like bridesmaids—garlands in their hair, nosegays in their hands—extravagant… ~Luci Shaw from “Pink”
If you stand in an orchard In the middle of Spring and you don’t make a sound you can hear pink sing, a darling, whispery song of a thing. ~Mary O’Neill from Hailstones and Halibut Bones “Pink”
Nothing about me is pink
except my windblown cheeks
on a brisk April day,
yet I love listening to pink
as it blooms all around me,
bubbling with ebullience,
whispering me awake in the morning
and bidding me gently goodnight.