I went walking in the suburban wilderness the other day after being inside for the last couple of weeks. It is exuberant spring everywhere. Daffodils are rampant. There are sprouts of grasses and flowers, new growth on bushes and leaves on trees.
And the willow trees are such a lovely shade of green. I stopped and admired the leaves and hanging branches of the willow tree. It brought to mind memories of the large willow tree by the pond at the Portland Japanese Garden now sadly gone. And there was a willow tree near my workplace when I lived in Bellevue. A huge, old stately presence with the branches like skirts trailing in the nearby creek.
And the cherry trees are in full bloom across our neighborhood. Weeping cherries came first, but the regular single cherries are great fluffy clouds of pale pink.
In the spring, there is a scroll that is often hung in the tokonoma.
Yanagi wa midori hana wa kurenai, “Willows are green flowers are red.”
I first saw this scroll at the very first keiko I attended at Midorikai. Mori Sensei was teaching that day and I asked her what it meant. She said that it is nature as it is. We see the willows in the spring are a lovely shade of green and flowers that are blooming are crimson red. You don’t see red willows or green flowers.
Like any Zen scroll, there are many layers to this saying. We can understand at a basic physical level of green willow and red flowers, but perhaps there is an understanding that applies to life, that no matter how much we wish it otherwise, willows and flowers are as they are. Not only nature, but life is not how we want it to be, but how it really is. When we see life how it really is, when we are clear-eyed, we can begin accept life as it is. Letting go of fantasy and accepting life as it is, is the beginning of finding the joy of living.