Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Winter at Nanzenji (南禅寺)

You may have wondered if Kyoto was as beautiful in winter as it is in autumn.  While the tourists, Japanese included, flock to Kyoto in the autumn for the changing leaves and again in the spring for the sakura (cherry blossoms), I think most would agree that each season has its own unique beauty and charm.  I think to say one is more beautiful than the other is really to miss something.

There is a lovely quietness to winter.  There is something solemn about it.  There is weight.  There is clarity in winter, everything exposed, the bare trees cutting up the silver sky.  With snow everything becomes high-contrast, like a black-and-white film, sharp, clean.  But it is also soft and slightly out of focus, your breath and low clouds clinging to the day.

Winter is something to celebrate as much as autumn or any season.  Listen to it speak.

Summer, Saisho-in

The evening bell, solemn and bronze
in the grandfather temple down the hill,
sounds dimly here.
Slow beat of the mountain's heart, perhaps,
or determined pulse of pine tree (gift of the birds)
growing out of the crotch of the slippery monkey tree.
All one, perhaps--
bell, mountain, tree
and steady cicada vibrato
and little white dog
and quiet artist-priest, carver of Noh masks,
fashioning a bamboo crutch for the ancient peach tree--
symbol of strength, symbol of concern.
All cool under nodding crowns of the vertical forest.
all seeking in this place,
all finding in this place--
hidden yet open to all--
the spirit in the cedar's heart.

- Unknown

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