Now that the miserable long winter here in the Pacific Northwest is becoming a faded memory (not to mention unusually persistent this year), Spring is finally here! At times like these I love to go back and re-read poems from the famous Japanese anthology, the Hyakunin Isshu.
In particular, one of my favorite is this poem:
久方の Hisakata no
光のどけき hikari no dokeki
春の日に haru no hi ni
しづ心なく shizu gokoro naku
花のちるらむ hana no chiruran
Which Professor Mostow’s translates in Pictures of the Heart as:
In these spring days
with the tranquil light encompassing
The four directions
why should the blossoms scatter
with uneasy hearts?
The last two lines in particular bear particular attention because while the poem is a celebration of Spring in many ways, it also has a bittersweet tone to it because the blossoms are gone before you know it. I don’t know if it fully comes out in the English translation, but it definitely seems to come out in Japanese.
Life is really short, and like the blossoms of Spring, it has a lot of pretty and wonderful things in it, but we’re so busy plodding along, going about our business, that we don’t take the time to appreciate them because we feel there’s always tomorrow. However, the poem reminds us that there may not be a tomorrow.
Further, if I put on my Buddhist hat, it’s also reminder that since life is short, getting hung up on all the pretty things in life might not always be worth it either. Like the blossoms, I am gradually withering and getting older, and time is not something to squander. I need to pick my battles, determine what matters most to me, and not get distracted by the rest.
Since today happens to be the Buddhist holiday in Japan of Ohigan, when the seasons are more mild and people can afford the time to renew their commitment to the Buddhist path, it’s also a great time to take stock of these things while getting some much needed vitamin D.
Namo Shakyamuni Buddha
Namo Amitabha Buddha