Friends of the Cold
Detail from Three Friends of Winter by Zhao Mengjian, Chinese, 13th Century
On my wintry way to work this morning, I noted the sorrel and chives peeping out of the semi-thawed dirt in my garden patch. About a block away from the house, my peripheral vision caught a flash of gold: the first forsythia of the year. Arching overheard were maple buds on the verge of becoming bright red blooms.
Surely all these will survive the cold and the snow predicted for the rest of this week. They were bred to thrive in this adversity, to show us what a real stiff upper lip is, to pave the way for the tenderer harbingers of spring.
This brought to mind the Asian classic "three friends of winter," ume-plum, bamboo and pine. Here's a bit of poetry on that:
Peach and plum in springtime, don't be too proud of your blossoms;
Think instead of the faithful pine and green bamboo at year's end.
What season changes these noble stalks and their luscious evergreen?
-Kim Yuki, Korean, 17th century
Pure white plum blossoms
Slowly beginning to turn
The color of Dawn
Japanese, 18th century
My spring is just this:
A single bamboo shoot,
A willow branch.
-Kobayashi Issa, Japanese, 18th century
Also, there's an interesting exhibit which touches on this at the Sackler. I think it's only up for another week at the most, so sorry for the late notice. If you do have the free time, however, go see it. I really enjoyed it.