Please, come back soon!

Gone! A Farmer’s Market without flowers. No gifts from nature patiently waiting to be arranged, put in water and bring a room to life. Half of the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market had no stalls today. The 101 is still closed, so there is no access to Santa Barbara from the South.

Buying flowers is a Saturday morning ritual for me. I have been over the holiday look for several weeks now, looking forward to refreshing my vases and angling towards spring. When it’s over, it’s so over.  The available flowers change with the season, of course. A few people like the diehard,  people- pleasing sunflowers that smile back at them all year-long. You can find these flowers in any grocery store. But those year-round blooms long ago became boring for me. I no longer smile back.

Living in Japan part – time has accentuated my appreciation for the seasonal. Year-long availability for a flower or a fruit makes it much less interesting to my eye. Each season has its long-awaited seasonal celebrity appearances. There are the first flowers of spring. The cheery yellow forsythia branches are not particularly beautiful, but they have the honor of announcing that spring has arrived. A few weeks late the pinklicious Japanese magnolias demand attention. Sweet peas follow soon. In Japan, they sell them with long curling tendrils. So much lovelier than just the straight stem.  Let’s not forget ranunculus, flirty and fabulous and overwhelming in its choice of colors and its lighter than air texture.  Continue reading “Please, come back soon!”

In Search of Beauty

I awakened in Japan this morning to learn of the terrorist outrage in lower Manhattan.  It’s not the news any of us want to see wherever we are.  We live in times that can easily be called disheartening.  I have felt the encroaching darkness  for several months for reasons that don’t require illumination. Anyone with a functioning sensory mechanism has most likely felt a similar reaction to the political turmoil.

I looked forward to my Japanese visit as a way to reassure myself that there is still some semblance of decency and sanity remaining in the world.  One doesn’t need to come to Japan to find it, of course, but for me, it makes it easier.

Appreciation of nature’s  beauty is built into this culture and readily accessible. I am far from alone in my quest for distraction and sustenance.  In the popular gardens, hundreds of tourists armed with phones and cameras clog the pathways, searching for their own moments of inspiration.  Mostly, they seem preoccupied with taking selfies in front of a photogenic backdrop. I determine in the future  to avoid these congregations as much as possible and focus my attention on the less obvious, making a vow to avoid these over popular spots.

Yesterday, we went to Arashiyama, to show our house guest the Western foothills of Kyoto.  We visited Tenryuji, a world heritage site, and then wandered the bamboo forest, encountering some exuberant schoolgirls and many tourists along the way. Continue reading “In Search of Beauty”

rain dance

Before I moved to CA where the sun shines most of the time (Neil Diamond circa 1971) and the ground is green for a brief few months a year, I generally thought of rain as a spoiler.  I grew up with the children’s refrain “rain rain go away,” and never found a lot to appreciate in a rainy day.  Until I moved to CA where the arrival of rain became a reason to celebrate.

How times change. Now in CA the hills are euphemistically called golden, but are in reality a dull brown.  So if I travel and encounter rain, the usual nemesis of the tourist, I no longer gripe, but watch it in wonder and with pleasure.  I’ve equipped myself with a colorful umbrella and a sturdy pair of waterproof sneakers so that I can easily navigate the puddles and the overflow I encounter.  I breathe in deeply enjoying all those reputed negative ions.

The remnants of a typhoon are passing over Kyoto today.  The skies are steel grey and a steady rain is falling. Yesterday, I bought autumnal flowers from my favorite flower store for our apartment and happily arranged them in what I determined were artistically satisfying arrangements now gracing our living space.  Our interior is warm and pleasant although outdoors it’s a major contrast. Continue reading “rain dance”

Blissed out

Being here produces an almost constant high for me.  It’s allowed me to appreciate the drizzly days and foggy nights happening recently in Kyoto as being as beautiful and welcome as the sunny bright days. It’s admiring the magnificence of a huge polished wood counter when out for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and the elegant perfection of an old machiya.

It’s the almost constant delight taken in Japanese design and the surprises waiting for me each time I leave my building.

diorama made from silk cocoons.
antique case in front of shop holding bonsai

It’s feeling completely at one with my surroundings, of releasing into the moment.  It’s visiting with friends and being grateful for their enrichment of my life. It’s going to a big Ikenobo display, feeling a bit underwhelmed, then suddenly concentrating on a small piece of the arrangement and watching the small miracles of a single flower come into focus. Continue reading “Blissed out”

Must be Seen (again and again)

You are familiar with the statement, “Must be seen to be believed.” In the case of cherry blossom season, this is not an exaggeration.  It is truly a take – your – breath – away experience to be ingested and savored.

The attachment the Japanese and I have to Sakura cannot be overemphasized.  Weeks before the blossoms appear, forecasts appear, predicting when and where cherry blossom season will begin and spread across this island nation. The color pink appears in hankies and scarfs, cakes, drinks and candies.  Artificial branches of pink cherry blossoms are hung in shopping arcades.  Increasing numbers of kimono-wearing women appear on the street, adding to the sense of anticipation and sense of occasion.

You would be forgiven if you thought that it’s all overblown, or if you’ve seen it one time, you do not need to see it again.  You’d only think that if you had never truly experienced it.

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Sakura holds a unique place in the hearts and minds of the Japanese people.  Much has been written about the centuries – long attraction of the blossoms to the Japanese.  Now, 21st c. publicity and travel opportunities have contributed to an influx of tourists from many lands, poised to descend on the most famous places in Japan to view sakura.  At times, in certain places, the crowds of people with camera phones become almost comical, if it weren’t so annoying.  The masses of people can easily distract me from the magnificence of the trees in bloom.

Yesterday, as the blooms intensified across Kyoto, we sought to view the flowers in a quieter location.  I wanted to be sure my family saw what all the fuss was about before they headed for Tokyo.  At the suggestion of a Japanese friend, we took our family inside the gates of the former Imperial Palace. Continue reading “Must be Seen (again and again)”