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White chrysanthemum

before that perfect flower

scissors hesitate. 

Buson 1716-1784

A few days ago, I found my way to another celebration and exhibit of chrysanthemums (kiku) at a shrine in Tokyo.  Taken at a superficial level it was proof to me that when the Japanese decide to explore the limits of anything, it usually goes way beyond what I’ve come to expect from the western world.  This world of chrysanthemums, displayed at the shrine, felt as chrysanthemummy as it could get in terms of extravagant blooms and displays.


Digging deeper, I listened to poet Jane Hirshfield speak about the deeper meanings chrysanthemums hold in Japanese culture.  They are long lasting autumn flowers, in contrast to the now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t ephemeral state of plum and cherry blossoms. They announce the arrival of spring, but we enjoy the luxury of looking forward, after their blossoms drop, to a long summer ahead.

 Chrysanthemums are an emblem of transience as well, but they tend to be long lasting, poignantly holding off the dead of winter.  Their explosion of beauty and their stillness serves in Buddhism as a reminder of a spotless open heart and an awakened mind.img_8563

Thank you, Jane for the poetic enlightenment!

It seems to me that many of the Japanese celebrations that include seasonal flowers, serve as a reminder of life’s duality between beauty/grief.  The beauty assuages the grief we all must feel at the transience of life, but it also serves to reinforce life’s brevity and compels us to notice what’s before us in the moment.


shrine entrance




The lanterns lit

The color of the yellow chrsanthemum



Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.

One Comment

  • A. Walstad says:

    Hi, Dianne. Leave it to you to share such a visual trip with us. Thank you. I have always liked mums, but these pictures lend elegance and versatility to the chrysanthemum repertoire that I did not know it had! xo. Thanks! And Happy New Year! April

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