Human Flower Project
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Plum Blossoms of Kitano Tenmangu
Japan gets a jump on spring, as blossoms of ume open on bare branches.
Prunus mume, plum blossoms, Japan’s harbinger of spring
We remember the first blooming plants of the year in March: crocus, then a bit later the daffodils, quince and forsythia. Our birthday falls in late February, dank and colorless, when the best you could hope for was a mild wind.
Some year, not this one, we are determined to celebrate our birthday in Japan, where late February is a time to relish instead of just endure. White, pink, red (sometimes, yellow) the plum trees bloom now, their five-petalled flowers opening in happy defiance along bare black branches.
In Kyoto last fall for the first time, we insisted on visiting Kitano Tenmangu, a Shinto shrine in the northern part of the city. Our Goodwill Guides, Minori Goto and Moe Honjo, were a little perplexed at this choice – a time-consuming trip, meaning we’d have to forego the city’s greater glories. But we were fascinated by a Shinto shrine dedicated to a scholar: Sugawara no Michizane (845-903).
Friday, February 18, 2011
Berry Tippling in the Arctic
For winter visitors to Lapland, lingonberries in many forms take the sting out of dogsledding and icebedding. Thank you, Allen!
Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Lingonberries), the toast of Lapland
Photo: H. Zell, via wiki
By Allen Bush
I was introduced to Lapland through the Weekly Reader in Miss Goodwin’s first grade class at Chenoweth Elementary School. I can’t recall anything else about other faraway places. Lapland was the focus of our attention. I learned at the tender age of six that days in the Arctic Circle were long in summer and short in winter. There were reindeer, dogsleds and the northern lights.
I don’t remember hearing about lingonberries, a blueberry and cranberry relative, though Hans Andersen gave hints of them in The Snow Queen.
When they reached the bush with the red berries they found the reindeer waiting for them…
Friday, February 11, 2011
Stuck inside Immobile
Photography, gardening, history, healing: John Levett avoids ‘fixed positions.’
Essay and Photos by John Levett
Sometime around 1963, at a party somewhere in south London, a friend asked me if I’d heard of Bob Dilan. I said ‘Yes’ because I always said ‘Yes’ because I had to be the one in the room who had to know. About everything. Even today I find it very difficult to say ‘No,’ to publicly acknowledge that I’m flawed. This is a terrible thing to carry around. When I’m preparing a new course or seminar it’s not the big issues that I dwell on but the footnotes, the question that might arise that I’ve got to plan for — Who was the tea boy of the Rheinische Zeitung when Marx was writing for it?; Did Mary Wollstonecraft travel port or starboard on the packet ship to France?; What was Hegel’s favourite brand of tobacco?; Did Mary Shelley write her drafts in pencil or charcoal? Don’t get called out!
So, Bob Dilan it was for a few months. This was OK as nobody I spoke to knew any different. It was on buying Freewheelin’ and being corrected by the record shop guy (“Dylan as in Thomas sir”: the patronizing scumbag!) that I had to list all those I’d talked to about ‘Dilan’, then meet casually and equally casually slip in, apropos of nothing, ‘Dylan’ with the hope they’d never bother remembering my aforementioned unhip references.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Post Cards from Paradise
In the late 1940s, Florida beckoned Midwesterners with sunshine, bananas and flowers. It still does.
Red your letter today in the large envelope. Been busy to day with garage will write tonite. Chas & I are real carpenters
January in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, gets cold and gray, and awfully bare. February’s like that too.
So good for Jimmie he headed from Shepherdsville south to Wauchula, Florida, to look for work and the sun. We came upon a half dozen post cards he sent to his mother (who’ll remain nameless), and on a frigid winter night we sat back for a voyeuristic tan.
Florida is the prime winter getaway for Kentuckians. Thanks to our friend Carolyn, we spent a delicious spring break in Naples one March of junior high school, staying with her grandmother Mimi. Lots of folks head for Sarasota, Delray and other spots along the coasts if they can, but we’d imagine back in the late 1940s, when Jimmie made his trip, snowbirds weren’t quite so common.