It seems an eternity since last smelling rain falling on warm earth, while visiting this sea of humanity. The latter platitude is more appropriately applied to Tokyo than any place on this earth, at least of those I have visited. I walked around the lake inUeno tonight after dinner, rain be damned, listening to the background buzz of a city overlaid by emotive cries of night herons and the swallowing, hollow gathump of bull frogs. While savoring the fine petrichor, I marveled in the fact that other life forms have successfully jived with such kinesis and infinite lay of (mostly) uninspired but seismically stable architecture and imponderable sprawl of concrete.
It is my sweet 16th visit to this country, the archipelago I fearlessly continue to negotiate by cutting wide and vulgar swaths through its language and etiquette. Yesterday I became imprisoned on the wrong bus that, after a gruesomely long haul, ended up where I had started instead of where I was going.
It delivered me back to a cherry tree that I have come to know in many alter egos over many years. I have paused by this very same tree, naked and exposed in cruel late winter gales- the tree that that is- again watched it abused by the phone cameras of youthful couples on an immaculate spring day and, for the second time today with its branches crowded by a murder of ravens consuming its fruit. As I mature, I like these things more than all others; adding memories to a thing so simple and beautiful as a single tree in all seasons.
I do not speak the language other than a few dozen phrases and three hundred words that, applied with the correct body posture and pleading of eyes, seems to get me where I am going or eating what I know I can eat. I love this country; I love its devotion to the picnic on a sunny weekend day and the allowance of children to climb on trees in public parks. I like the respectful nature of those crammed cheek by jowl on a rush hour train and the woman who, without fail, delivered on her bicycle a hearty breakfast to the stray cats of Ueno Park near my hotel and where I run each morning.
No matter how many times I visit, I cannot prepare for the sensation of plants. I hiked yesterday in the mountains near Nagano, hoofing for five hours through carpets of Paris tetraphylla, Trillium tschonoskii, Diphylleia grayii, Heloniopsis japonica, Epigaaea japonica and Allium platyphylla, all while foliage overhead reticently emerged on no less than 6 species of maples, four Hydrangeas, Aesculus, Styrax, Euptelea, Fraxinus and countless other contingents of the Arcto-Tertiary.
Madly between any opportunity to partake in the natural pulse of this archipelago, I have entered the artificial arena of horticulture where, in Japan, it is has been taken to gratifyingly lunatic heights for centuries. Just imagine a variegated counterpart of any plant you have ever grown. Strike that. Imagine a staggeringly exquisite, stable variegated, or fastigiated or weeping form of a plant you have grown and one that in only in your wildest imaginations would actually exist. You can find it here in five, ten, fifteen different forms, depending on, of course, exactly how much you Yen for it.
By contrast, Google rare and unusual plants in North America and websites appear with Hemerocallis ‘Stella del Oro’ shamelessly splattered in living color across the screen. There does exist, fortunately, some nurseries on our continent that take the craft seriously. Yet primarily, and also where I once rambled in considerable contemplation, there is found a pedestrian blend of plants that are not tended nor scrutinized but offered with descriptions that imply and overall indolence in the process.
But I digress, as I am in Japan, surrounded by some the most exciting new plants imaginable and passionate plants people I have had the opportunity to count as friends. I will not go further; take a look at some of the photos. I think they are good substitutes for any further blathering on my part.
Thanks, again, to so many of you for keeping in touch, sending comments and questions; they are always welcomed.