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Chapter 44

Scents of cherry. The pink clouds fill the street and canal, exploding silently and slowly.  From shrine gardens they unfold onto the banks of the river.  Warm wind licks the clouds and sends wisps of pink fog up.  A cross wind shatters them.  They scatter, dancing down as pink snowflakes.

Birdsong echoes in my ears, permeating even the privacy of my sand colored room.  The scented air, the saturated evening colors that linger all day, the pink clouds, the whole affair leaves a trace of sweat on the back of my neck.

How can anyone sell spring?  How can anyone bring a blossom to bloom?
An idea, an energy, is ludicrous to sell.

"It's not just a season.  It's a feeling, a state of life," says my guide, the woman living in the Great Heart Temple.

We had been discussing the hanging scroll chosen by her father, the venerable monk whom everyone refers to as "king."  The scroll reads:

Flowers bloom,
From heaven,

By the poem is her arrangement, big black leaves, revealing bright white cherry blossoms, a frozen spring.  She's a certified teacher of this art, but she doesn't want to teach it.  "How can you judge someone's art?" she says.  Her teacher loves green and black things; it is from these simple hues that "you can construct your world," she is told.

Like the other temples on the mountain of the Wondrous Heart, the entrance to the Great Heart Temple is stark: grey of stone, beige of sand, brown of the wooden gate.  The first few gardens are also fairly stark, stone, moss, dark forests of cedars.  There is one small courtyard that houses an old tree in a bed of moss.  Wizened woody boughs with dark green leaves, each year it briefly blazes bright red, a wildfire of blossoms.  I'll return to see it.

Hidden in the deepest garden, wedged in a grove beyond the secret tea room, rests a huge cherry tree.  When I visited, it had not yet bloomed; it had not yet drawn the pink cloud.

Such is the style on the mountain: outward appearances are all grey stone, green pine, blackened wood; deep within there are hidden gardens of pink blossom, waiting to unfold a secret drama under the sky.