Winter, brutal and unforgiving, is passing.
The infant bud lies dormant on the branch, sheltering from the frigid air. Long desired warmth drifts lazily towards the gnarled limbs. Clotted sap thins. Tiny blooms grudgingly shiver awake.
Delicate and new, the blossom shyly spreads.
Plum trees blossom in late February in Japan, making them one of the surest, most welcome signs of Spring.
The Sakura cherry tree is blooming as I write this, in early April - admittedly a tad later than normal.
Both blossoming trees are gorgeous, graceful reminders of the ability of nature to sooth us with its unassuming beauty. Or to make us wistful in the knowledge that such beauty fades so very, very quickly.
But perhaps the thing I enjoy best about these trees is how, when not wearing their billowing, blossomy wigs, they are twisted, gnarled flora. No smooth and silvery birch has this kind of character. No tall, strapping oak would deign to bend and twist in such ungainly ways.
But it is exactly because of such ungainly sprawling branches that these two trees show off their blossoms so well.
That such unexpected beauty can burst out from such an unexpected foundation is glorious. That the very symbols of youthful exuberance and rebirth decorate such wizened branches is startling and wonderful.
As for the rat….
well, they get pretty short shrift from most people. Maybe it’s because they bumped the beloved feline from the Chinese zodiac based on a dirty trick (or overexcited forgetfulness, depending on which folktale you prefer). Or maybe it comes down to the black plague. Or any number of other plagues or diseases. Or that wormy tail. Or the twitchy nose.
The rat has his or her fans, though, and they tend to be diehard. No big surprise there, for the rat is one of the luckiest animals, at least according to the zodiac. Not so lucky when one meets up with a cat, however.
The Plum Blossom and the Fertile Breath is the 8th print to scurry back into the shop. It would have been earlier but the cow or ox hasn’t debuted as a print yet.