Posts Tagged snow
Kaori spends much time sitting in the garden, despite the slush and snow. When it gets too cold or too wet she stares at the cherry tree from her window, wet black boughs against a gray sky. Her writing desk is bare, even though she grinds the ink-stone every time she sits down and then doesn’t use it. It is Kimiyasu who comes to her first, after three days without one of Kaori’s spontaneous poems that the family is grown accustomed to. She next to her on the cold stone bench, wrapping an old quilt around the both of them. It was made for winter, from scraps of wool and silk, its chambers thick to bursting with cotton, the colors all harmoniously arranged so that it spirals gently from a cool green to warm purple. The wind blows the clean scent of icy air and frozen ground around them. For a time, Kimiyasu simply stays inside the blanket close to her sister. Finally, as she can feel the bone-chill of the stone seeping through even the thick quilt, she speaks without looking at her sister.
“Sluggish black water,
even fountains flow in circles
outside of winter.”
Kimiyasu waits for a response verse from her sister. With no response other than Kaori’s glance in her direction, Kimiyasu continues: “We’re worried about you, sister.”
Kimiyasu’s fan comes out, the blanket slipping down her shoulder, and points at her sister’s obvious untruth. “I’m not so sure. You spend most of your day out here in the cold, staring at the frozen pond. Mother worries that you’ll get sick if you keep this up for much longer.”
“She gave me a lot to think about, I’m thinking about it.”
“Father didn’t want to give you a choice.” Kaori looks at Kimiyasu, inadvertently pulling the quilt more around herself. “He said that this sort of decision should be theirs to make in your best interest. Having lived through it, Mother argued vehemently that you should be given a choice. Father did not believe you were strong enough.”
“Maybe he was right. I don’t know what to do anymore. Both of my choices are right answers, in a way. But they cannot both be.”
Kaori looks at her sister before repeating her father’s words. “’The path of virtue is clear to the virtuous.’”
Kimiyasu shakes her head. “That doesn’t say anything about choice. Or what to do when two virtuous options present themselves.”
Kaori’s brow furrows. “No, but that’s what Father always said to me when I had to make choices…”
“Perhaps, then, what you need is a different opinion. Father will not always have the answers. You must learn to interpret the verses for yourself, in the context of your own life, dearest sister. Come let us go to the temple, the changing scenery always helps when I must puzzle out a vexing situation.”
Kaori smiles slightly at Kimiyasu. “I fear I would do much the same thing at the temple as I am doing here, sitting and staring, lost in my own mind. Or worse, distracted by the colors there at this time of year.”
“But there you will have the wisdom of the place and the austerity of the monks to guide you.”
Kaori has no response for her sister’s seemingly infallible logic.
“That settles it then,” Kimiyasu claps her hands and Mikan comes after a short while. “Mikan, have one of the others prepare my cart. Kaori and I are going to visit the temple.”
“Of course. Oh, Kaori.” She looks at the older woman. “Your mother wishes to tell you the fabric has arrived from town.” Kaori nods, and Mikan continues towards the front of the house.
“Sister, I should get to work on the clothing I’m to make, I know—”
“That I mean well?” Kimiyasu sighs. “I think you would try and get distracted, or worse yet, make so many mistakes you’ll ruin the fabric. You need time to still your mind before you begin the project Kaori. Isn’t that what Father always told us? That we should begin our works clear of mind and spirit, that we might give full attention and full… what was it he used to say?”
“The better to give our projects full attention to the spirit of their purpose.” Kaori supplies the missing answer for her sister.
“Yes that, now go, grab your coat, and come with me to the temple. I will not discuss the matter further.” Kimiyasu looks rigidly into the pond. Kaori opens her mouth a few times, and realizing her sister is serious, gets up to go and choose a coat, and possibly do up her hair. For the first time in three days, Kaori’s mind turns to the simplicity of dressing appropriately to go outside and sheds itself of the choice her mother gave her.
Kimiyasu stares at the recently raked furrows in the snows of the garden, subtly reflecting the overcast gray sky, until Mikan comes to tell her the cart is ready.
“Do you think our Father asks too much of Kaori?”
“I would not presume to know Huiren’s actions.”
Kimiyasu looks over at Mikan, one eyebrow delicately raised. “And yet… you refer to him by first name and very obviously have an opinion on the matter, or you would not have been watching from the overhang.”
Mikan nods. “Well of course I do, child. I helped raise the boy. That does not mean that even our families cannot be mysterious, full of hidden depths, or that we do not worry about the well-being of our charges. Just that, as the chick that is stuck in its shell, sometimes we must let things be.”
Kimiyasu nods. “I am too young to ignore my sister’s hardships. But I hope I can help her find her own answers.”
Mikan shuffles towards the doorway that will lead her towards the warmer kitchen, she finishes the conversation over her shoulder. “Then I have raised you to be a good sister.”
I get it now. Those scenes in books where you can’t see a couple feet in front of you because of the flurries of snow coming down. It isn’t that bad, honestly. Minus the shadowy figure up ahead that I can’t tell if they’re coming towards me or away from me. But that’s just the way life goes. You wake up at four in the morning in order to take your time getting ready to get to work at seven so that you’re not a wound up ball of stress eating away your own insides with concerns about whether or not your doing your job right. The price for this is walking down a dark street in what feels like the middle of the night when everyone else should be asleep and the world is not really anything more than a flurry of snow. Crunch crunch crunch of your shoes and the brief prayer-thought of “I hope I don’t accidentally find ice and fall on my ass.” There’s the debate of whether or not its too late to call in, considering you’re already on your way to the bus stop. Still that figure up ahead.
And its not that you can’t see because of the snow, because really, it isn’t a blizzard or anything. Just some unexpected freezing cold fluff. It’s because you’ve bundled up so much to keep your face warm that you don’t have any peripheral vision. It makes it creepier, and it also makes the snow even more blinding. Even though it has nothing to do with the snow. But you’re not going to let your face get cold, so the fact that you can’t see has nothing to do with your own actions and everything to do with the snowflakes falling down and around you. You’re thankful for the scarf covering your face, even as the snowflakes find ways around it to land with brief freezing pinpricks on your forehead, under and around your eyes. People tell you it isn’t THAT cold, that you’re too bundled. They don’t understand that its just as much to keep you in and everything else out. Nothing to do with temperature, everything to do with wind, thoughts, voices, words. Precious precious words. You have to keep them close, nurture them, let them percolate through the drawn-out and aging filters of your experiences in order to get them into some sort of shape that eventually becomes something that you can use to help yourself get better. The help you purge the things that are festering inside your head, but you can’t just let them out all at once. Too many uses for them, like the stranger obscured by snow and scarf. You can’t see them anymore and you wonder where they went. Whether the Great Old swallowed them up. There is a peace to the chthonic entities that you read about. Yes it is the graveyard peace of the end, but it is a peace nonetheless. Something to be wished for.
She picks up her writing brush and looks left out the window. It is open, and the scent of snow wafts in. In the garden her father’s favorite tree, an old cherry, has the first signs of flower buds. A bird sings. The fireplace behind her is lit, countering the frigid air from outside. She looks back at the paper before her, steadies herself with a breath, and begins writing.
Springtime snow fallen
waiting under the cherry tree
once again you are not here.
The wall was too high
no way I could jump over,
I long to see you again.
She sighs, sets the brush on the holder, crumples the paper and tosses it into the fire. She has only ever heard poems and songs of illicit trysts. No one has ever written of someone refusing these, or if so it is because they are dead. She chastises herself for thinking of such a silly reason in her poem. She must be more serious, more worldly. Being the second daughter (and third child) has not afforded her opportunities for such knowledge however. She looks once more into the garden, bundles up in warmer clothing, and heads to the stone bench under the cherry tree.
The snow crunches under her feet and the stone is colder than she expected it. She thinks she is a bad poet, that no one will read her works, that she will never be married, will die alone in this house. A bird hops towards her in the snow, chirps at her, flies away. The rice-paper door to the house opens and her mother steps out, she too is bundled.
“Kaori, what are you doing out here?”
“I am thinking, mama.”
“’One does not force inspiration, one kindles it like a lone candle.’”
Kaori sighs. “It is not inspiration that I need, mama. It is… something else; talent for one.”
“Come now! Your father says your poetry is wonderful.”
“Then why doesn’t he show it to people?”
“You know your father doesn’t like to brag, Kaori. To display such fine works to others unprovoked would be improper of him.”
She sighs again, heavier.
“Come along Kaori, I’m going into town and want you to come with me.”
Kaori looks at her mother, her eyebrows raised. Her mother has not asked Kaori though, so she simply gets up, restraining the sigh that desperately wants to come out, and bows to her mother. Smiling, her mother leads to the garden door.
Outside the door, their eldest brother waits for them. He bows to his mother and the three of them being walking to the town. Her brother leans over to her.
“Where did she find you?”
“I didn’t know she was looking for me. I was in the garden, under papa’s tree. If I’d known I could have hidden, and hopefully she would have walked out without me.”
“That’s what you get for thinking so much.” Her brother is smiling at her as he says this.
She frowns at him, taking in the view around them as they walk. The shaded spots under trees still have snow on them, but much of what is now under sunlight has melted. The water has soaked into the earth, turning many dirt paths to mud. Kaori and her family walk on a stone path recently put down. Cherry blossom trees mark the entrance ways to houses, and down the road a gateway marks the entrance to a temple. The fading red of the wood contrasts with the white snow nicely, another poem comes to her:
Poets talk of white,
the snow, the moon and the stars.
What about color?
Where has the green of trees gone,
the brown of their sleeping trunks?