“How far from this world
is the wild cherry?”
Haiku by Yamamoto Jōchō (1649 - 1721), Japanese warrior and philosopher
For sure the Tiber is not the Meguro River that flows delicately through the teeming city of Tokyo. We’re not in Japan and the tradition of celebrating cherry blossom is something distant and detached from our local ways.
But that’s just a cultural fact, don’t be put off by it. Take on board the experience of a tradition that is a delicate and refined way of symbolically taking part in a natural spectacle, an epiphany of spontaneous beauty in a mystically “separated” space.
Yours will be an initiatory journey. Head off towards the hills. On the buttresses to the West or the Apennines themselves. Go alone or with someone who has a sensitivity equal to your own.
An Asian native, prunus avium grows wild in our woods, usually at the edge of spots where light penetrates firmly, sometimes in clearings where the straight and slender branches can find their way to the heavens.
Start in the morning. Choose a sunny day. Clear. Though Spring’s humidity can still trigger a sudden storm.
Choose an area that is dear to you. If you can’t decide, let yourself be guided by intuition. Don’t think about it too much. It will still be fine.
Step through the leaves torn by the rigours of winter, softened by the vigorous rains of March. You will hear the harmonious song of the blackbirds in love, the ungainly one of the magpies, the pops and zirli of blackcaps and tits. Even without descrying them. It’s enough to know they’re there.
Then you will suddenly come across it. The cherry tree in bloom. Your cherry tree in bloom with its very white petals as light and immaculate as tiny bedsheets laid out in the sun. All around an army of twigs still dry, like arms thinned from a long fast.
This will be your hanami , the contemplation of a rare beauty .
Stop for a sufficient time. Enjoy this vision. Stay in silence. Then go back home, without asking questions. Keep your sacred place within you in the idea of happiness and light that it brings. Take it with you and use it as a talisman when you need it. In dark moments. When you lack vitality. When the way ahead is dim. When you feel a victim of injustice. When those around you and near you do not see you. When the world’s weight crushes.
When you need lightness.
Come back every year. If you can.
You’ll be able to fly again. Again and again.
Recommended listening, Coldplay, Ladder to the sun.