The sun is climbing and the evenings are longer and lighter now.The tomatoes are planted, the chard and beetroot has bolted and the quinces are yellowing but so far eluding the birds. We are treading on the coat tails of Summer and already I miss the green fuse that is early Spring. The first short days of the season are fragile. They are early cold and all afternoon sun. But we are grateful for it. Bees are about - they have overwintered on honeycomb but now are about pollen getting again. They are on the pear blossoms and the echium. They nose into half open roses and use the magnolia like a helipad. The first few weeks of Spring are for those, like bees, who live for flowers.
Three years ago we flew to Japan in flower viewing month to chase the cherry blossom north from Tokyo into the mountains. We diligently followed reports in the Japan Times, where a boxed diagram daily charts the tide of flowers rolling across the country. A map spread out on the hotel bed and a squint at the flower forecast on the evening news, helped plot a journey from Spring into the last days of Winter. So linear is the island of Japan it seems to be possible to move backwards through time and seasons.
On streets, in parks and from train windows we studied the Japanese in full Hanami mode - something deeply arresting in the
value put on transient beauty by a nation so steeped in work and hardship. That some of the oldest trees are named and venerated almost as saints seemed wonderful to us - their branches propped and roped to prevent injury - blankets spread underneath them. Picnics and parties celebrate the fleeting few days of blossom. The Sakura is a non eating cherry - it bears small blunt fruit that fall to the ground green, so it is for its flower alone that it is prized. As Basho walked and penned his haiku visiting with mountains and rivers there are some in Japan who visit the old trees, calling in on them, spending an afternoon with them, sharing sake - perhaps even a song.
In Melbourne spring is signalled by sudden warm days, days of wind and then a week of cold nights. Just as the wisteria has its heaviest bloom the wind dashes them to the ground. This year the blossom seemed to come early starting with the almond and quince and then moving to the cherries and plums. In a spirit of nostalgia we made bento and took it to the cherry trees in the hills. We may not have walked there or known each tree as a friend but it is a good Spring thing to sit with trees.
Now the flowers are gone and the fruit is set. The pictures above might be from another place or age. At the hairdressers I wonder if we will pick apricots before Christmas. The season is at once just begun and nearly over. The Korean barber tells me that the snow is already falling north of Seoul. Early? I ask him. Five days earlier than last year he says.