a spring ritual

willow twigs
willow twigs

When I was very young, one of our spring rituals was to go out and gather a few choice, newly budding tree branches. Usually we would select crabapple or maple or willow to bring into the house, place in a jar of water and watch the spring unfold at an accelerated rate compared to what seemed, to young eyes, an eternity of slowness evolving outside in the cool damp of March.

Because spring always holds the seed of autumn, I thought of this poem from Encounters with Cold Mountain on remembering the spring twigs. This is a lovely little book which contains modern versions, written by Peter Stambler, of ancient poems by a Tang dynasty (8-9th century) Chinese hermit poet. I find the touching words still fresh today. (Tomorrow I will definitely share something more upbeat!)

After dinner, I close my door

As if I could hand it to you, I break a willow branch;
Its leaves shake free and scatter downstream.

I keep my cottage in wife-lorn country;
You seal your rooms in lost-husband province.

Between us the sky arches like a rounded sea;
No ship, no traveler knows the opposite shore.

If you stand outdoors searching a mutual moon,
Do not count pairs of sparrows, flying wing by wing.

image (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer

5 thoughts on “a spring ritual

  1. Lovely picture inspired by a depressing poem, albeit an incredibly beautiful one. Good job with the shadows, especially.

    You’ve done a lot of things so far that are close-up to the main (individual) subject. It might be an interesting challenge to pull back and do something more landscapey (is that the correct technical term?) Sweeping, out-doorsy, like that.

  2. Interesting that you would mention that. I have actually been working on some larger outdoor views. I have to change my technique somewhat for this and work at a higher resolution so the whole process takes a fair bit longer. Anyway, I will share something along that line soon!

  3. Hi Tom! Your comment about the warbler image and its variable focus really captured my thoughts. Now you do it again when mentioning those shadows, which I find very vibrant, making the whole drawing come to life. I also enjoy looking at the superimposed textures of the glass jar (with the water and without the water) and with the fabric behind it). This image really captured their essence.

  4. Lovely idea, to have the willow branches brought inside to hasten spring and time. I had thought the heart was the mutual moon, the only thing so distant from both that both can see.
    Thanks for adding to my poem.

  5. Thank you for commenting! I’ve been very fond of your book since I first found it several years ago. I return to it often.
    I love your image of the happy pairs of sparrows, too painful for the lonely to contemplate.

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