Zen in a Cherry Tree Garden

At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on the Cherry Tree Esplanade each springtime the spectacular cherry trees are blooming, with an extravagant display of double pink blossoms.

During the last week in April every year since 1982 the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, “Sakura Matsuri” is celebrated.

When I attended the very first festival there were several Japanese cultural exhibits. At one there was a venerable Buddhist monk executing calligraphy. Impeccably dressed in traditional robes. He worked at ground level with an ink brush over a sheet of paper on his hands and knees. The fine rice paper sheet measured something like 36 X 48 inches. He would ask every person requesting his calligraphy for their name, which he inserted into each unique drawing. A donation was appropriate. I wanted one for myself, but didn't have any cash. So I hurried back home a short walk away and arrived back with my donation.

As I waited my place in line, a big black ink spot accidentally dripped from the brush onto the pristine white paper. That sheet was about to be discarded, but I stepped forward and said that I would take that one, just as it was.

When he heard my request the old monk stood up straight and sang a beautiful song in Japanese. Then I gave my name and this is what he brushed for me. Notice the equipoise, flowing brush strokes and precise alignment.




" Seasons change. 
Flowers bloom. 
People come and go."

After all that a beautiful older woman gently folded the paper, wrapping it loosely in an even finer blank sheet of rice paper. I took it as an invitation of some kind. I never was able to find that monk, or that group of Buddhists. Another lesson in impermanence. And, Zen. 

I used that fine blank paper to wrap a wedding gift for friends. It looked pretty casual for gift wrapping, but the richness of it was there. Not everything can be seen with the eyes. 

Later on in the park I came across some friends. They asked me what I had there. Still filled with the Zen spirit, I replied, "Just some ink on paper".

PS While back in Old Nippon they did it up big.


1 comment:

Tree Service Queens said...

Cherry trees are so symbolic when they come out. I don't know what spring would be with out them.

-Oscar Valencia