Love at First Sight

Each year, the world wide obsession with  (cherry blossoms) seems to increase.  To be in Japan during this season is to experience a spectacle unlike any other.  Its arrival throughout the country is calculated carefully by meteororologists, its likely bloom period examined, from buds to peak, to the emergence of  leaves marking the end of the season.  Its affect(effect?) on Japanese culture cannot be underestimated.  It’s an immersive, communal, joyful, yet bittersweet experience.  From specially designed foods and drinks, to store window displays, to accessories and clothing, you surrender to it while in Japan during Sakura season.  It’s frothy and short-lived, but that only reinforces the sense of urgency to enjoy it while you have it, because it all will disappear within a few short weeks. It reminds us of the impermanence of life.

It quickly becomes party time in Japan as the blooms emerge and friends and colleagues gather together under the blossoms to sip sake and eat pink colored rice.  The mood of the crowd is buoyant and contagious. Must be seen to be believed. Crowds of tourists, however, have made the more popular gathering spots decidedly less enjoyable for this visitor.

Sakura season is not unlike the sequence of Think Pink in the movie Funny Face, depicting  a pink world , https://youtu.be/KX6TaA6IRkk. A good dose of Pink can brighten anyone’s day, as good as looking at the world through rose colored glasses, or at least through pink cellophane as I loved doing as a child through a lollipop wrapper.

Had enough cherry blossoms?

Enter the humble morning glory, a flower of summer, taken to new heights by the Japanese delight in them.  I first knew I was going to love Japan, because during  my first trip to Tokyo, I discovered the Morning Glory Festival.

Iriya Asagao Matsuri (Morning Glory Festival)

Iriya Asagao Matsuri, held from July 6 to 8 every year, is the largest festival in Japan dedicated to morning glories. The 60 producers and 96 fair stalls that line Iriya Kishimojin—meaning Iriya’s goddess of childbirth and children, and the common name for Shingen-ji Temple—and Kototoi-dori Street attract as many as 400,000 people during the three-day period each year. (In Tokyo)

The morning glories of Iriya are said to have gained fame around the late Edo period. The flowers were initially cultivated in Okachimachi, and as times changed they switched hands to producers in Iriya. By the mid Meiji period, the Iriya breeds were so attractive that they became popular as decorative plants.

In their heyday, Iriya’s producers created some thousand varieties of morning glory through deliberate cross-pollination. The flowers momentarily vanished from Iriya in the Taisho period. And after the Second World War, a team of locals and the Shitaya Tourism Association revived the tradition and organized the Asagao Matsuri as we know it today.

Visitors to the three-day seasonal event are sure to experience the summer of Edo through the morning glories that have delighted natives of every generation, from Edokko to Tokyoites. Gotokyo.org.

Way back when, we woke up very early in the morning on our first day in Tokyo.  Going back to sleep was not an option even though it was still dark. I was restless, eager to discover a new city.   I’d read in a guide book that the Tsukiji Fish Market opened for business very early.  Bingo.  Something my husband might enjoy because the name fish was attached.  An ideal destination. He gave me no resistance, even though it meant crossing the city. Little did I know that it was the time of Asagao Matsuri (Morning Glory Festival.)

As we approached the market, I noted small pots of deep blue morning glories along the sides of walkways.  I think this was the moment I first fell in love with Japan.

I immediately decided that a country that sets aside a few days to honor a humble flower, must have something going for it!

I have since learned there’s history and art behind the crowning of the morning glory as an important summer flower. It was imported originally from China for the medicinal uses of the seeds.  The Japanese were the first to grow if for decorative purposes.  During the Edo period, it reached the height of popularity.

In this vivid display of rich blue and green against a gold-leaf background,Suzuki Kiitsu concentrated on the proliferation of the blossoms and leaves by omitting any indication of space or context. The exuberant outburst is carefully orchestrated into two movements: the blossoms on the right rise up from the ground, while those on the left cascade down as if supported by an unseen trellis.

Trained as a textile dyer, Kiitsu studied painting under Sakai Hōitsu (1761–1828), with whom he prepared an illustrated compendium of classic Rinpa art, One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin (Kōrin hyakuzu). Evident in these screens, especially in the brilliant decorative effects of thick mineral pigments on gold leaf, is the influence of both textile design and the Rinpa school.  Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Here a more spare interpretation of morning glories  by artist Tawaraya Sori, 17th C,

Needless to say, I came home and tried to grow some Japanese strains of morning glory, ordered online from seeds . They were pretty, but I obviously didn’t have the knack of it to go from pretty to breathtaking.  I was lucky to get three blossoms the entire summer.  A dismal record.  This year I’m going to try again.

Each time I see a morning glory brings me back to the First Time I saw them celebrated and displayed in Japan and the feeling I had of Love at First Sight. There’s nothing as intoxicating as Young Love (nor any flower more beautiful than a morning glory!)

P.S.If you’re intrigued you can easily find sources for seeds online.  Let me know how it works out for you1

The Wonderful World of Eye Candy

I can easily be distracted by visual displays of color and pattern.  I relate to infants watching a mobile; their eyes are bright with excitement and their chubby little legs  kick with glee.  If I were a bird, I’d be right after the mate with the most colorful and hypnotic plumage.

So I guess I was ready made for Japan.  On my first visit there I was immediately attracted to…..almost everything.  So much eye candy (for lack of a better description).  I was fascinated by it all.  Pity anyone who was with me.  They were required to move VERY s l o w l y, so as to savor and attempt to consume it all as I pointed out each thing that caught my eye, foolishly hoping my companion would get the same jolt I did. I clearly did not  trust their own abilities.

eye can·dy
/ī ˈkandē/

noun

INFORMAL
visual images that are superficially attractive and entertaining but intellectually undemanding.
“the film’s success rested on a promotional campaign showcasing its relentless eye candy”
California super bloom 2019
In our culture, the term eye candy seems mostly used to define a buxom, brainless young woman.  For me, it  means something visual that I can take pleasure from.
Think of the current superbloom of wildflowers in California. Possibly,  a once in a lifetime treat. If this isn’t eye candy, what is??  Add to these floral enticements the staggering beauty and gasp- inducing wonder of a mature Japanese cherry tree in blossom, probably made more magical by its ephemeral nature. Certainly more bittersweet.
Japanese cherry blossom in Kyoto, Maruyama Park, night illumination.  This tree brought me to tears the first time I saw it.

 

Japanese munchkins, vintage photo. irresistible.  They’ve cornered the cuteness market.

 

Hot weather matcha sundae. Irresistible layers of flavors and textures and coolness. ( I eat it all.)

 

contemporary patterns in Japanese umbrellas. Raised to an art form. Rainy season wonders.

 

more sakura

 

Seasonal Japanese postcards. Glorious.

 

matcha latté

 

Sakura in Rokkokuji Temple. A neighborhood wonder.

 

New chocolate shop in my neighborhood. Note seasonal designs. Help yourself.

 

Japanese ceramic vessels. Be still my heart.

The diversity, power and beauty of Japanese ceramics and its long tradition make this art form one to be savored.

spring ikebana arrangement

 

someone loves frogs. Display in coffee shop.

 

Autumn in Sanzen-in garden.

 

seen in arcade. The power in numbers!

 

Child’s drawing in Miyajima.

 

 

 

sake container
Tower of fresh peas
Clouds!!!
In the course of writing this blog, I realize that most of what I consider eye candy in the West, is found  in nature.  In Japan, it can be man-made and intentional as well as natural.  The Japanese seem to have an innate artistic sensibility that  can raise my heartbeat. What is the magic formula that allows this ability?
I have thousands of photos of things that inspire me when I’m in Japan.  I’ve shared just a small slice of them to give you a sense of my encounters!  I imagine on an Eye Candy Sensitivity Chart, I might be off the chart.  Don’t know. What is clear is that these visual delights bring me great pleasure.
Sometimes, I wonder how many more years I’ll be able to make this trek.  Unknowable.  But, for now, I’m gearing up for another round, leaving this world on May 1!

Continue reading “The Wonderful World of Eye Candy”

Prepare to Die

Without fail, a week before I am scheduled to take a flight, an inner voice matter of factly informs me that I am likely to perish on the upcoming flight.  That grim warning sets in motion an irrational and neurotic search to convince myself otherwise.

My fears center  mostly about the weather and what turbulence I can expect to encounter on the flight.  I begin to look at long-term forecasts for my place of departure as well as arrival. En route forecasts are hit or miss since the flight plan is not set in stone. There’s a very good chance that if the arrival/departure cities are “in for it” I’ll find a reason, not necessarily disclosed to anyone, to postpone or delay my flight.

Tornado/thunderstorm activity is to be avoided at all costs, so this means if it’s during the spring/summer season of thunderstorms, I make certain that landing doesn’t occur in late afternoon, a more frequent period of storm activity.

I have literally flown dozens of times.  For a while in my youth, I gave up flying after a grueling flight and traveled only by train for a few ridiculous years. This being America, it was not a sustainable solution. I’m better than I used to be, but it’s still not a piece of cake. It’s an endurance test. I congratulate  myself in showing courage and at least haven’t taken a vow never to fly again like some scaredy cats do.  It’s a necessary means to an end and I’ve determined I must endure it if I want to travel.  My mind has trouble concentrating on two issues at once, so playing music I like can help some to distract, but truly not enough.  Kind of like the Lamaze method for breathing during childbirth.  Better than nothing, right?

If the flight is smooth, no problem. I even fall asleep. However, when the seat belt sign is illuminated, I am on guard.  I check outside the window to see what’s going on.  If it looks stormy, I’ll pull the shade down, tighten my seat belt, pop a tranquilizer and mutter things to myself like “This too shall pass.” If the flight attendants are asked to be seated, that’s an indication that we’re not in a game for sissies.  Time to check out the facial expressions of the attendants and hope to receive some consolation from the fact that they are not showing an ounce of fear. I think those facial muscles must have been cut when they sign up for the job.

I have been known to refuse to board a plane if it looks like it’s going to take off headlong into a storm. By all rights, I’m sure the airport should be closed.  My husband has departed without me, unable to contain his disgust with my cowardliness.  All he’ll say to me is, “The pilot doesn’t want to die.”  My reply?  “How do you know?”

I rationally understand that turbulence isn’t dangerous as long as my seatbelt is tight across my lap.   On an instinctual level, in extreme turbulence, I KNOW a plane could easily fall apart. Just like breaking a neck if you’re jerked around too much.

I compulsively count to 5 right after liftoff because a friend of mine who’s a pilot told me that period of seconds is really the only period of danger during a flight. That’s easy enough as long as the plane lifts off relatively soon after barreling down the runway.  If the prelude to the liftoff seems to be taking too long, that could in my mind. be a sign of trouble. So far, the planes I’m riding in have always lifted off.

I’ve tried drinking alcohol which helps a bit, but not for long if the adrenalin is coursing through me.  If it’s pretty rough during the flight, I’ll sneakily take a Xanax, not telling anyone I’m traveling with, because I know they think I just get dopey, which is undoubtedly true, but better that than to be trembling in fear as far as I’m concerned.

I came of age singing Come Fly with Me” and Starliner.  I can easily get into that mode if “weather wise it’s such a lovely day.”  What’s more thrilling?

I know most people do not consider flying their favorite activity. I think we all have our own reasons.  Let’s face it, if God really meant for us to fly, we’d all have wings.

Sky Diving

I’ve always said to anyone who cares to listen that South Florida’s most appealing asset is its skies. Developers haven’t been able to touch that yet. Florida’s clouds can tower, inspire and threaten like no clouds I’ve seen anywhere. Most evenings the heavens  provide a predictable and awe-inspiring glimpse of what might be heaven on earth or an old-fashioned idea of it. Combine the sky with an ocean scape and it’s unbeatable.  It’s a hallelujah moment.

We’ve made it a habit in Key West, as do many, to walk to a local pier about a half hour before sunset as the theatrics begin.  Every day’s performance is unique.  Some evenings induce gasps, others quiet contemplation.  The colors range from soft pastels of the most delicate kind, peach, pink and yellow.  If there are showers around, expect a dramatic steely gray cloud cover. The cloud formations are usually layered from the horizon to overhead.  Each turn of the head provides a new frame for the view, while pelicans, terns and seagulls enjoy themselves cartwheeling and diving in the open space.  Do they appreciate the beauty or is it all about finding a meal?  Maybe it’s a little of both.

I can’t restrain myself from taking photos because I want so badly to hold on and recall.  These pix will give you a small idea of the grandeur and magnificence awaiting us each evening.

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New Ways to have Enough fun on Vacation while approaching 80

I’ve learned to redefine what it takes to enjoy a vacation. Enjoyment and enough being the key word here.  Non stop activity has largely vanished as something to be desired or enjoyed while vacationing.  It’s been replaced  by a more laissez faire point of view.  

In the mornings, no longer do I have to hit the streets running which is good because that would literally be an impossibility with asthma and hip bursitis.   It’s rather delicious to linger in the morning for much too  long  over my cup-o’tea.  I can  leisurely check my email, stare at the beautiful color of apple green that I painted on an outside wall, and idly wonder what happened to the butterflies that were supposed to be inhabiting the butterfly garden in front of my house.  They were here en masse the last time we visited.  At some point, it will feel right to take a shower and consider making  the bed while deciding which colorful t-shirt to wear to complement this bright and  sunny day. Continue reading “New Ways to have Enough fun on Vacation while approaching 80”