Prunus mume

In March, to celebrate my remaining alive thus far thirty one years, Chris, William and I drove up to Lookout Mountain.  We spent several days exploring Rock City, Ruby Falls and the amazing array of channels in our hotel suite as we don't really watch television at home.  The weather was unexpectedly cool, and necessitated a run to The Evil Place That Never Sleeps - read: Wal-Mart - for hoodies for William and Chris.

Much of the mountain and the surrounding region was brown, brown, brown, and grey.  Even the cultivated and acclaimed gardens of Rock City hadn't quite gotten the memo it was Spring in other parts of the country yet.  After a chilled morning of trudging through wonderful caves and admiring terrain and geography made even more beautiful by the lack of vegetation, try to imagine our surprise when we exited Rock City and towering over the other gabbling tourists was a stand of these:

Labeled as Ornamental Japanese Plum Trees, they were in full raucous bloom and were crazy mad splashes of pink against a very grey cloudy sky.  Prunus mume, with the common names including Chinese plum and Japanese apricot, mei and ume, are an Asian tree species in the Armeniaca (apricot) section of the genus Prunus. The flowers, long a beloved subject in the traditional painting of East Asia, are usually translated as plum blossoms.
One of the "Flowers of the Four Seasons," they are central to the Chinese aesthetic and thus have been frequently depicted in Chinese art and poetry for centuries.  In Japan they are traditionally planted in the northeast portion of the garden to ward off evil.  In Vietnam the tree is so loved mai is a popular girl's name.  The plum blossom has been a harbinger of Spring in the East as well as symbolizing endurance, perseverance and strength as they are their most beautiful during winter.  They are often seen blooming amidst the snow.
Discovering these were an unexpected joy.  We all three were suffering head colds and fevers and after dark caves and slate and boulders their delicate beauty was such a delight.  We continued on with our explorations that day with brighter spirits and a lighter step.

When everything has faded they alone shine forth,
encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens.
Their scattered shadows fall lightly on clear water,
their subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk.
Snowbirds look again before they land,
butterflies would faint if they but knew.
Thankfully I can flirt in whispered verse,
I don't need a sounding board or winecup.

"Little Plum Blossom of Hill Garden" ~ Lin Bu

No comments:

Post a Comment