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