Cherry Blossom Jisei

Today Anthony Bourdain was found dead, of suicide. Last year, a friend of mine committed suicide. I could write nothing then of Jeff’s death but found my heart opened today. I am saddened by these events.NOTES: A traditional farewell. It was a tradition for the literate Japanese (monks and Samurai for example) to write death poems shortly before their anticipated death, seppuku, or battle. With the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn, from winter to spring, we see changes as the seasons of spring and summer end. All things pass – mono no aware. The images of dying are also symbols of “farewell”. For Hedge’s 55.

Cherry Blossom Jisei
how brief the blossoms
of the cherry tree –
their lives end at sunset –
snow and rain falling at night –
melting flakes gone before sunrise –
bare branches feel them
drift through skeletal fingers –
birds sleep as snow falls,
cherry blossom moon
holds back the night sky –
the night will conquer that moon

Poetics: From Natures Point of View

Today Mish is doing the Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub.  She wants us to write about life from the perspective of nature:  a tree, frog, flower, whatever!  I used the quote form The Last Samurai as my inspiration and …the cherry blossoms.  Come join us for some excellent poetry.  Poetics: From Nature’s Point of View 

kanzen sakura
through the long winter
I sleep – curled tight within the
wood – I dream of spring
and bursting forth in shades
of pink and white –
just for a day in the sun
just for a day in the rain
just for a day in early spring snow –
just for one glorious day to look
at the beauty around me –
to listen to the birds –
to watch my friends opening –
to the sun around me –
to one day hear a man beneath my perch saying:
“The perfect blossom is a rare thing.
You could spend your life looking for one,
and it would not be a wasted life”***
and to smile and let my petals
slowly fall to earth.

***quote from The Last Samurai by Katsumoto

copyright kanzensakura

The Carolina Cherry Blossom 1959

I found this picture in my journal box. Behind is my Ninny, to my right is my Aunt Gay, the beauty of the family and 18 at the time. To my left is my aunt Kathy, incredibly, 14, the only redhead in the family, and possessor of multiple graduate degrees. I’m the short one. My mother took the picture. It was Mother’s Day and she had been given one of those nifty Polaroid cameras, where you peeled off a strip of exposed film and stroked developer across the print. Really cool. Mama is always up on technology. I guess I got that from her.  Oddly, I look more like my aunt Gay than my mother.  About 20 feet to my left, was the cherry tree my father planted at my birth and the one from which he fashioned my “Journal without words” when I graduated from college.

In the coming of fall, I thought of that warm sunny day, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

mothers day

夢 Yume

 

Cherry Petals Fall Like Teardrops

Cherry Petals Fall Like Teardrops (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Black hair, streaked with grey.

Longer, below his shoulders.

Mouth still firm and full.

 

He said, Little Bird

It is hanami.  Let us

Go and sit and talk.

 

Pink and white petals

Above us, petals falling

Like teardrops on us.

 

His eyes full of peace

As he told me how lonely

The years had been.  I

 

touched my hand to his

cheek and he put his hand on

mine.  I knew his touch well.

 

We sat under the

Cherry trees and spoke only

Heart to heart, no words.

 

I closed my eyes and

Tears rained down my face.  Always

He said.  Forever.

Hanami Picnic Food

 Like any picnic, you want food that will keep well, not take up a lot of space or be a lot of trouble.   These are some traditional Japanese recipes and often show up at hanami.  Of course, you can always do the KanzenSakura thing with a South meets East – have southern fried chicken and instead of potato salad, try the Hanami Salad or some pickled veggies along with other foods.  A note about onigiri – I think of it as “round sushi with stuff inside” and put things I like inside and can be square, round, or triangular. Cold sake, white wine, beer, apple juice, sparkling cider, champagne, water with lemon and mint….all are good to drink with this food.  よく食べる Yoku taberu  (Eat well!)

 

Hanami Salad

Hanami Salad 

8 oz  Rice vermicelli (fine noodles) or regular vermicelli

2-4 Spring onions

4 oz. asparagus

a few radishes

1 large carrot

2 tablespoons mirin (or sherry)

A dash of sesame oil (ordinary oil will do but add a few sesame seeds or a handful of peanuts to the salad to give it a nutty flavour)

A dash of light soy sauce

Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions and then plunge into cold water to cool. Drain really well even blotting with kitchen roll or a clean tea towel to remove as much of the excess water as possible.    Blanch or cook the asparagus for a couple of minutes and then plunge them in cold water too. Drain well, again trying to get rid of as much excess water as possible.

Chop the spring onions and slice the carrots and radishes finely into discs. Using a sharp knife cut 5 or 6 V shaped nicks out of the radish discs evenly spaced around the edge to make them into a flower. You can do the same with the carrots or use a flower shaped vegetable cutter (a metal clay cutter or cookie cutter will do just as well). (this makes them look like flowers!)  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well to coat with the oil, mirin and soy sauce.

onigiri 2

Onigiri – Rice Balls

4 cups of hot freshly cooked Japanese-style rice (What kind of rice can you use? No, you cannot use long-grain, jasmine, basmati, or Uncle Ben’s.) Short Grain (sushi rice) rice

2 sheets of nori seaweed, cut into 3cm/2 inch wide strips

Salt

You can add a bit of red coloring to some of the rice to make the rice pink.

 Fillings – Traditional. Some classic fillings are pickled plum (umeboshi), bonito flakes just moistened with soy sauce (okaka), bonito flakes mixed with pickled plum (umekaka), flaked cooked salted salmon (shake or shiozake), cooked salty cod roe (tarako), chopped up pickles (tsukemono) **See my blog on this site for Quick Pickles – “Quickles”

Non-Traditional Fillings:  Ground meat (pork or beef or a mixture), cooked with grated or chopped ginger, then flavored with soy sauce, some red pepper flakes, sake or mirin, and sugar. It should be quite dry. Curry flavored ground meat mixture works surprisingly well too.  Canned tuna, well drained and flaked, flavored with a bit of soy sauce and/or salt to taste.  Flaked corned beef.   Chopped up western style pickles (as long as they don’t have too much garlic in the brine), well squeezed to get rid of excessive moisture .   Chopped veggies such as carrot, spring onion, avocado, cucumber: sprinkled with a bit of rice vinegar and soy, chopped barbecue chicken or pork, chopped deviled egg, chopped pickled vegetables.         Non-Traditional fillings are often perishable.  Keep in mind for picnics during warm weather take appropriate precautions!

Wet your iclean hands with cold water, and sprinkle them with salt. Take 1/2 cup of the rice and place on one hand. Make a dent in the middle of the rice with your other hand. Put in about 1 tsp or so worth of filling in the dent.

Working rapidly, wrap the rice around the filling, and form into a ball. To make the traditional triangular shape, cup your hand sharply to form each corner, and keep turning it until you are happy with the shape. Practive makes perfect.

Wrap the rice ball with 1-2 strips of nori seaweed.  Repeat for the rest of the rice.

To bring along on picnic, wrap in plastic film or in a bamboo leaf (which is traditional). Some people prefer to carry the nori strips separately, and to wrap them around the onigiri when eating, to preserve the crisp texture of the seaweed.  (This is what I do)

tamagoyaki

Tamago-yaki Recipe – Sweet Rolled Omelet

3 eggs
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce

I like to add very finely minced spring onion and parsley to mine.

Crack your eggs and lightly mix them. You don’t want to incorporate air into them so the best way is to use chopsticks: stir them gently without whipping, but make sure that the eggs and yolks are completely homogeneous. Add the mirin, sugar and soy and gently mix in.

Use a paper towel to evenly spread a bit of oil in your pan. Heat it on medium low heat, then add the eggs so they cover the bottom of the pan.

After 2-3 minutes, the egg will start to cook and solidify. The eggs don’t need to be entirely cooked, in fact, they should be a tiny bit moist on top so that the egg sticks to itself. Using chopsticks or a spatula, fold the egg over onto itself twice, like how you would fold a letter into thirds. Don’t flip the eggs, just push them to the end of the pan.

Use your oily paper towel to spread a tiny bit more oil in the pan and add a bit more of the eggs. Lift up the log of already cooked eggs so that the raw eggs are touching them. When the new layer of egg is almost cooked, fold the eggs over onto themselves again. Repeat until all the eggs are used.

Wrap in saran wrap and using a sushi mat, press the tamago into a rectangle shape. Let cool completely, slice and enjoy!  Or you can just into thirds instead of halves like a conventional omelet and cut into slices.  Videos making tamogyaki can be found on YouTube.

 

Hanami 花見

partying Beneath Cherry blossoms, Isawa  Matabei  1624 - 1644      Cherry blossoms have been a cultural event in Japan for over a thousand years. Hanami (flower viewing) which usually means the cherry blossoms (sakura). From the end of March until about early May, sakura bloom in Japan. Okinawa usually gets the first blooming in February!

forecast      So important is hanami 花見, the weather reports also give a sakura-zensen 桜前線 (cherry blossom front). Because the blossoms are so fleeting, hanami planners carefully take note so they can plan their hanami activities. Outdoor parties and picnics abound everywhere there are cherry trees. There are even yozakura 夜桜 (night sakura) parties. Electric lanterns, lights, and paper lanterns are hung from the trees so the party and hanami can be fully taken advantage of.

hanami 2              hanami

I had my own personal hanami last Friday. At a local shopping area, a whole long line of fully blooming pink sakura drew me out of my car and wandering from one end to the other and back again. The wind had picked up a bit and pink petals were blowing everywhere. I am sure people thought me crazy as I walked, bowed, and laughed. When I returned home, I had pink petals all in my hair, they had drifted down into my blouse and stuck to my slacks.

Cherry blossoms have been a cultural event in Japan for over a thousand years. The cherry blossom holds much symbolism within Japan. According to the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking but brief beauty of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life; mono no aware 物の哀れ (literally, the pathos of things). In Japan, cherry blossoms also symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse. The traditional Japanese values of purity and simplicity are thought to be reflected in the form and color of the blossoms. The cherry blossom is also tied with the samurai culture, representing the fleeting nature of the samurai’s life and symbolic of drops of blood.

May the brief and breathtaking beauty of the sakura give you joy and a recognition of that we must be aware of how fragile and precious life is.

 

Kamogawa_hanami[1]     cherry trees

Post 102!!!! Yowzer Y’all. Answers to Questions

This is post 102 and I must say, I never thought I’d come this far. To those of you who have followed and liked and commented, I truly thank you. You all have made my day many times with your kindness and interest. And so I have decided to answer some questions that have come up so you all can read them.

1. Yes, the Samurai and the Wren series is all true. At this point, I have not decided if I will go past Part III.
2. How did I guess Dr. Ken was a forensic pathologist? Well, he went to University of Medical school and obtained his medical degree. When he said he went to Duke, I logically concluded it was for a specialty since he was already an MD. Now…..When he mentioned U of Tennessee, this clinched it. Now UT is a fine school – excellent medical school (which he didn’t need), good law school (which he didn’t want) but – an excellent anthropology department and……The Body Farm. That was the only reason he would have gone and because he was so good, he was accepted and obtained his PhD. When we met, although the Body Farm was fairly new, it had obtained and still has worldwide fame for its research done at the Body Farm.
3. I am proud to a Southern woman. A friend crossed stitched for me: American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God.
4. I am really a nerd – love my sci fi, fantasy, manga, anime, Star Trek, Star Wars, comics.
5. Someone said it was interesting to meet a real Southern belle with Japan in her heart. I think that is accurate. And yes, in the good ol’ old southern family tradition, I was a debutante. But the deal was, the summer before I went off to university, was mine. No questions. I went to Woodstock, camped out in the desert, and sat on the hood of my car the night the first man stepped on the moon, gazing at the sky in wonder and amazement.   I love Japan, the art, the food, the culture and Dr. Ken.
7. No, I don’t think I’m going to take pictures of me cooking. I’ve said it before, you all are grownups (sort of) and probably know how to cook already from what I have read on your blogs. You don’t need help from me because you all are accomplished and knowledgeable.
6. The 11/16 Society is real.
8. In The Walk Series of haiku, the man is a good friend. A nuclear engineer from Japan who is here working for awhile. No romance in the works. He is delightful, handsome, extremely intelligent, and humorous. He and I have a special connection and enjoy each other’s company with much delight.
9. There are several poems about Ken and I scattered throughout the blog.
10. there is more info on the Who is KanzenSakura? page

and finally, kanzen sakura means, perfect cherry blossom. Watch The Last Samurai to find out more.

Good night Y’all. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!!! and as my grandma Ninny always used to tell me: Sweet Dreams.

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