Cherry Blossoms, Kyoto

One spring, years after driving down that winding road lined with autumn aspen trees, Rinpoche took me to Kyoto in Japan to see the cherry blossoms. The blossoms looked like a reflection of pink sunset on snow. I could go on about their beauty … but something interested me even more than the blossoms: observing Japanese people appreciating them. When the Japanese look at cherry blossoms, if they say anything at all, they say something like: “Sakura [that means “cherry blossoms”] … ahhh .. :” “Ahhh … ” might not be the best phonetic interpretation of the sound they make, but it is similar in sound and equivalent in meaning to “ahhh,” the sound of wonder in English. “Ahhh … ” is not a sound of objectification. That’s more like “hmmm” (a sigh of doubt) or “yep” (I already know) or “by George!” (I think I’ve got it). The sound of wonder is not cerebral. Particularly when the Japanese say it, it sounds a bit like a sigh-it has a little sadness in it. It is the recognition of ephemeral beauty: beauty and decay go together, and the Japanese seem to understand that. Life is bittersweet. But here I am already starting to reach conclusions about people and trees again. Could the “ahhh” just be the expression of sheer openness? I wonder. – Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel, The Power of an Open Question

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[Image: Stuck in Customs]

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