The words for pining and the pine genus are the same in Japanese, too.
It’s almost cherry blossom viewing season. Depending on whom you ask, it’s been upon us for a few days, even. In Fairmount Park, the cherry blossoms have decided to follow the time-honored almanac and wait for the end of March or early April, more typical to their bloom. That’s what I think, anyway. Plants here are rule-followers. Anyway they were not yet blossoming when I walked through their promenade today.
Someone on Twitter posted that we should ask straight men what their favorite flowers are, because they aren’t encouraged to disclose things like that. I mean I dunno…I think everyone I’d ask has already gotten their favorite flowers tattooed somewhere private, but I like the idea of asking you: what is your favorite flower?
What is your favorite flower? Let me know in the comment section.
While many think of cherry blossoms as the most emblematic of Japanese flowers, and while this is true of its merchandising, I actually think the most Japanese flower is the chrysanthemum which is also a metaphor for the anus. Cherry blossoms are too yonic for Japan.
However, the most curious plant, in my opinion, is the pine (matsu). This plant is so present as to be ubiquitous in Japanese culture. Think about most Japanese celebrities you know. They are invariably named after the pine tree. Hideki Matsui (Pinewell), Nobu Matsuhisa (Evergreen), Seiko Matsuda (Pinefield). Their presence rarely piques our interest in the US, but there’s also nothing surprising about their parlance.
Pines in California never left me feeling much as a kid. Competing with car exhaust didn’t help. I preferred the overpowering scent of Jasmine and Honeysuckle which weren’t native to my region. Rare was the fragrant flower that was, until I discovered orange blossoms. I would let an orange blossom represent me to you, if not the pine, for reasons I am about to state.
What makes pines so interesting is the name itself. The word in the Japanese language is a homonym. As it is in English. In both languages, “pine” signifies:
a) an evergreen tree with needles for leaves, and
b) the act of longing.
How is this possible.
Once you see pine trees in Japanese gardens, buoyed by the craftwork of tenders who cover their work with design fingerprints, there’s little denying the potency and potential of their clay. The beautiful pine tree is in agony, longing.
And yet. If any tree signified longing, wouldn’t it be the listless willow? That fainting, feminine, dumb bitch of a tree. Who do you think you are, willow, a red rose? GTFOH with that wispy romantic umbrella of yours. Perhaps it is too obvious.
I held a pine cone flower in my hand knowing it would always come in a pageant of needles full of ardor.
Today and tomorrow, pining is evergreen.