The Transient Beauty of Flowers

“California Poppies in Bloom” | Anthony Satori

Hanami is the traditional Japanese custom of appreciating the transient beauty of flowers. Most commonly associated with cherry blossoms, or sakura – which bloom all across Japan for about two weeks during spring – the tradition of hanami dates back over a thousand years, and it was originally celebrated around plum blossoms, or ume. The spirit of hanami can, of course, be celebrated in appreciation of any flower, such as the California poppy, which similarly arrives in full bloom for just a few short weeks during the California springtime.

Every spring, all across Japan, the coming of the cherry blossoms is anticipated with great excitement. The bloom can occur as early as March and as late as May, and it only lasts about two weeks, so the TV news channels and meteorologists keep a close eye on seasonal variables so that they can keep everyone posted as to when the event will most likely occur. And then, when the flowers bloom, they seem to explode off the trees in an overwhelming experience of color and beauty. It is nothing less than transformative to the appearance and feeling of the world around you. And, for just a few short days, the entire culture slows down. People throw festive outdoor parties. They stroll along the streets and avenues soaking in the vibrant pink and white colors of the flowers. And when the night falls, they light and release magically glowing paper lanterns into the darkened sky. Some people write their hopes and dreams on these lanterns. Others write things that they wish to be free of, things that they desire to release from their lives. Some people just hold their wishes secretly in their hearts as they light the flame, and then they watch the lanterns fly silently away into the night sky, carrying their hopes and prayers off into the universe. Hanami is a festival of flowers, but it is really a celebration of the transient beauty of life. It is a chance to slow down and to appreciate what is beautiful, right here, right now, in this moment. It is an opportunity to become aware of what you are feeling in your heart, and to connect with what others are feeling in theirs. It is a chance to pause, to take a deep breath, and to inhale the wonder of being alive.

Perhaps it would be good for all of our souls if we were each to engage in our own personal hanami, in some form or another, every day. Just to pause, now and then, throughout the day, to celebrate – by ourselves, or with loved ones – whatever goodness and beauty there is around us, in that moment. Life is short. But while we are here, if we choose to remain awake and aware, we have this moment. This moment is ours. And it offers us a window into eternity, available to us whenever we wish to access it. In this moment we can choose to experience beauty, to share time, to express love, to find joy. And if we consciously choose to lay claim to our own personal hanami in this manner, every single day, we will have truly won eternity.

The Technique of Flowing

“A Fish in Water” | Anthony Satori

“We do not hear nature boasting about being nature, nor water holding a conference on the technique of flowing. So much rhetoric would be wasted on those who have no use for it. The man of Tao lives in the Tao, like a fish in water. If we tried to teach a fish that water is physically compounded of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, the fish would laugh its head off.”

– Al Chung-liang Huang

Sand Turtles

“Sand Turtles” | Anthony Satori

I was at the beach a few days ago, and I walked to the top of a sand dune so that I could get a more expansive view of the ocean. It was beautiful to watch, from atop this small hill, the blue waves crashing on the shore, and I breathed the salty air deeply into my lungs. After a few moments on the dune, I looked down and noticed the footprints of all the people who had been there before me. It became clear that numerous others had quite recently made this journey, possibly with a similar intention and desire, and as I stood there looking at and enjoying the beauty of the ocean, I felt a connection with all of them.

Among the footprints, a certain set stood out to my eyes. They looked like sand drawings of sea turtles. It was fun to imagine these turtles walking about, milling around my feet, enjoying the sun and the sand. And, much like when you are having a picnic and you see an ant (just one ant) and suddenly you see a hundred ants, a thousand ants, all of whom were invisible to your eyes before you saw and identified the first ant, I suddenly realized that I was essentially surrounded by literally dozens of these sand-formed sea turtles, and I was delighted. They were everywhere! A sea turtle party was happening all around me, and I had only just now noticed it.

And it was then that I realized the most surprising part of all. They were my own footprints. That’s right. My own shoes had been forming these sea turtle sculptures all around the top of the dune, dozens of them, and I had presumably been leaving them everywhere else I had been on the beach that day, as well, without even knowing it.

Where you are headed in life matters. Goals matter; destinations matter. However, as we often hear (and yet so easily lose sight of), the true quality of life really does arise from the journey. It is about being present and awake, in this moment. It is about feeling gratitude and appreciation for every good thing that exists around us, right now. And I think my experience that day at the beach helped to illustrate another way that we can make the most of our journey: that is, to be aware that we are leaving an imprint on the universe with every move that we make along the way, with every word that we speak, with every step that we take. If we walk mindfully, and choose to infuse goodness, virtue, and beauty into every day, into every interaction that we encounter, into every moment that we engage with the world around us (no matter how insignificant that engagement may seem), you may suddenly find yourself delightfully surrounded by a crowd of beautiful sea turtles of your own creation, without even realizing that you had been leaving them in your tracks all long. And you will be enheartened with the knowledge that, in some manner or another, you’ve made every place you’ve been a little bit more beautiful and meaningful, just by having been there.