Poetic Name (Mei)
Description / source poetry
Asa = morning, yuki = snow. Asayuki is the scene of fresh snow laying in the morning.
Green needle beneath the snow
While the earth sleeps
wrapped in its white cloak,
the cheerful warmth moves
with the dream of spring through its viens
I do not hear their murmuring,
but feel in my blood
a silent expectation
of a green needle beneath the snow
This modern Icelandic poem echoes the waka poem that Rikyu regarded as one of the foremost examples of the wabi mind-state:
To those who await only the cherry blossoms,
Show them the spring in grassy patches amid the snow of a mountain village.
Hana o nomi matsuran hito ni yamazato no yukima no kusa no haru o misebaya.
In this poem, ‘cherry blossoms’ carries the double meaning of ‘one’s lover’. The rich layers of meaning in these short lines makes it a highly successful poem. A single meaning always escapes us, making it a kind of kōan for our tea practice. One of the attractions of the poem for Rikyu may have been the way it elucidates the wabi mind by seeing profundity in the mundane.
Piercing silence of frost
In the night before a frost, it’s as if you can hear the frost in the heavy, frozen ambience. This is the ’song of frost’ or ‘shimo-no-koe’.
The Potted Trees
“The Potted Trees” is a very old noh play attributed to either Kan’ami (1333-1384) or Zeami (1363?-1443?). The play is set in winter. The regent of Kamakura, Hôjô Tokiyori, is traveling incognito as a priest. He seeks shelter from snow at the house of a man named Tsuneyo, the former lord of the Sano fief, now in poverty. The chorus sings for Tsuneyo, saying the cold winds keeps him awake so he cannot even dream of better days. Noting the particularly cold night, Tsuneyo offers to make a fire by cutting his only possible firewood - his potted trees of plum, cherry and pine which he has kept from better times. He sadly cuts them down, places the branches in front of his guest and starts a fire. Tokiyori does not reveal himself, but when he returns to Kamakura, Tokiyori returns Tsuneyo’s lands and gives him three estates for the three trees he ungrudgingly gave up - a plum field, a cherry-tree field and a pine forrest. Tsuneyo takes the deeds to these lands and returns home in joy.
Fuyu = winter, kasumi = mist, haze. This mei refers to the haze that hangs in winter, wrapping all things in a ghostly cloud as if
giving form to the bitter cold.
Budding Plum Blossom
Ume no tsubomi
For many people, the crisp, yet sweet fragrance of the ume in fields and gardens hails the dawn of spring. The ume trees stir excitement in the hearts of people when they come into bloom. From the umeboshi (pickled sour plum) that adorn dinner tables, to ume designs seen on boxes and on traditional clothing, the ume is a subtle, but profound part of the lives of at least the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese.
The ume is a Chinese native that was brought to Japan by envoys made to China before the Nara period (710- 784). It is said the ume flowers of this period where as white as snow. The famous work of Japanese poetry, The Anthology of Myriad Leaves (C.E.750, 'Manyō-shyū' in Japanese), was the first work to portray the elegant beauty of the ume. This collection of poems includes a poem written by the warden of Dazaifu Imperial Office (stationed in Kyushyu), Ōtomo no Tabito. At the time, Ōtomo no Tabito was holding a gathering for ume viewing at Dazaifu:
In my garden, petals fluttering from the ume,
Can snow be falling from the heavens?
In the mountains, the firm, young buds and new sprouts of the trees become suppler and new leaves start to appear. As well as green shoots, beautiful reds and soft yellow shoots emerge and before long, the notes of a coming spring are resounding all around. This mei is filled with a sense of hope.
"Nacreous clouds are polar stratospheric clouds. The sounds in the song represent nacreous clouds because they are at once beautiful and destructive. While particularly rare and stunning, they contribute to the destruction of stratospheric ozone in the Antarctic and Arctic. It is this duality of hard and soft that I wanted to capture. I think it’s important that we bring awareness to the destruction of polar ecosystems. The survival of the environment implicates the survival of all species." - Tanya Tagaq