My sister Beth writes yesterday from Japan: “Still a lot going on, more bad news all the time. We are all just hanging in there, taking each new piece as it comes. Not really able to relax yet. But things better than two months ago.”
A few weeks ago, Beth sent these written images of Japan in the springtime:
“I was out walking today and though this is prime cherry blossom season and many other dark pink, purple, red-orange and palest pink blossoms are out, though this is just the start of a whole parade of flowers that we all look out for and delight in: azaleas next, then the various irises, the long flowing waterfalls of white, pink and lavender wisteria, then the hydrangeas during the rainy season, and the delicate, lacy crepe myrtle in summer -- the color I want to see most is the greens of shinryoku (new green), the mini season that comes after the cherry blossoms and before the rainy season in June.
I think we all have this longing, no matter where in Japan we may be along what is called the ‘cherry blossom front’ -- that long sweep of the first blooms in the south and then the month-long slow trek they take as they open up all along the northern crescent of Honshu (the main island) and bloom at last, in Hokkaido, the northern-most island. The cherry blossoms are just starting in Tohoku and I can only begin to imagine, from the dull hint of it in me, the mixed emotions of people there as they see them.
The ‘new green’ season, though, is a different thing from the brief, shimmering beauty of the cherry. The green is not one but a dozen, two dozen, shades of green as all the spring leaves, on bushes, on trees, on plants, turn a shade that glows and glows with a vividness I have never seen anywhere else. Perhaps it happens elsewhere, perhaps it is a common thing in Asian countries, but I thought I knew every nuance there was to green, having lived in Ireland for a year, but the new green here is transcendent.
It takes some doing to outshine the colorful, silky, showy blooms of spring flowers here, but the green does so. It is partly that it all happens at once, and that it is a palette from lime to darkest green to balance the pastels, but it is also a turning of the emotional season here. Schools, ‘new faces’ (the newly hired young people who, having graduated in March, are just starting to get their feet under them, in May), other classes adults have decided to embark on -- all these are beginning and a new phase of life is underway. It is the beginning, though, so still new, still scary, still difficult to see the twists and turns it will take.
But the new green is, far more than the celebrated cherry (and I have always liked the quieter plum more anyway), a sign of hope, the promise of growth. I need that. We all do.”