Posts Tagged ‘thomas traherne’


“Grandpa,” my granddaughter asked me over the holidays, “why do you have hair in your nose?”

At the time, Allegra had tucked herself snugly into my lap, and I was reading her a story. She is now three-and-a-half, the age of unending and sometimes unanswerable questions. On an earlier occasion, she had asked me why the sky is blue, and I replied as best I could. But this question was of another order.

As I looked down at her open, eager face, I remembered George Orwell’s observation that small children, being small, view adults from the least flattering angle. More happily, I also recalled the explanation a longtime friend provided when his grandchild asked him a similar question. Putting on his best poker face, he explained that when we have reached a certain age, our hair can no longer make it to the tops of our heads, so it comes out our ears and noses.

I considered offering this explanation to Allegra but thought better of it, knowing that my son, who once asked such questions himself, might not appreciate my filling his daughter’s head with misinformation.  So I offered the rather lame explanation that as people get older they have hair in their noses. Fortunately my son, overhearing our conversation, judiciously noted that all of us have hair in our noses. With that, the matter was laid to rest. (more…)

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Sakura at Maizuro Park

Although the nights have been cold of late, the peonies in our perennial garden are energetically pushing up. Their crimson stalks are nearly knee-high; their white flowers will soon be in bloom. That is the nature of hardy perennials and the origin of their name: they come back every year. Having watched this happen, year after year, can we still greet the return of spring flowers with the excitement, joy, and awe we felt when we were younger?

That is the question addressed by two poems written in two very different times and places. The first is a waka by the Japanese poet Saigyo (1118-1190), a one-time samurai who became a wandering Buddhist monk:

                        Hana ni somu

                        kokoro no ika de


                        sute hateteki to

                        omou waga mi ni

                        Why should my heart

                        still harbor

                        this passion for cherry flowers,

                        I who thought

                        I had put all that behind me?*

For anyone who has looked closely at cherry blossoms, whether in Kyoto or Washington, D.C., it may be hard to imagine not being moved by the flowers’ evanescent beauty. What astonishes Saigyo, however, is his own response. A mature adult, he had thought his heart was jaded. Instead, he found his passion for natural beauty unabated. (more…)

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