Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”
“Between our two lives
there is also the life of
the cherry blossom.”
The cherry blossoms grace our lane ways and gardens, welcoming April, the month that was, in ancient Rome, sacred to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. April is the month that gave us Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth and, more recently, Wangari Maathai, Maya Angelou and Ella Fitzgerald. There is a warmth in the chill of an April evening, perfect for the beginning of journeys as immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales.
“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
For me, April has always been about cherry blossoms. Vancouver is renowned for our approximately 50,000 cherry trees, which flower in varying shades of pink and white. Every year, we hold a Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.
“In the cherry blossom’s shade
there’s no such thing
as a stranger.”
The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower that has given birth to hanami, a century-old custom that is said to have its origins in the Nara period (710-794) which simply means flower viewing. Families and friends gather under the canopy of flowering cherry trees to share a meal and gaze up at the delicate white and pink against a pristine sky of blue. Nighttime brings out the paper lanterns that people carefully place in the trees to add a spectacular illumination, which highlights the profound idea of the ephemeral nature of life. The blossoms come for a moment to bestow a graceful elegance, covering pathways with petals, then, slipping away with the silent promise to return the next year.
So, my dear friends, I invite you to join me under the canopy of a Vancouver cherry tree.
“Cherry blossoms – lights of years past.”
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Whenever I look at the world around me, I feel gratitude to those who share the wonder of our world and work together to preserve it for those who come after us.
“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” W. H. Auden
It was as I had imagined is would be – a pastoral setting, with a herd of cows in the forefront of the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow in May 1131, Tintern (Welsh – Abaty Tyndyrn) is on the Welsh bank of the River Wye. The Cistercians, known as the White Monks, who lived in the Abbey were adherents to the Rule of St. Benedict, the principles of which were obedience, poverty, chastity, silence, prayer and work.
King Henry VIII’s reign brought about the Dissolution of the Monasteries. On September 3, 1536, Abbot Wyche surrendered Tintern Abbey and all of its estates to the King. And so ended a way of life that had lasted for over 400 years. Nevertheless, Tintern remains a gracious testament to survival. It has outlasted the vagaries of human intervention. Perhaps it is the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary that stands as a vigilant protector.
Over the centuries, Tintern has become a place of inspiration. This visit was no different. For in the center of the chapel was a young woman reciting the words of William Wordsworth to the solid walls and open skies. I stood there, a silent listener…
Today, I came across a poem by one of my favourite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that spoke of his feelings for the Charles River, which is located in the state of Massachusetts. From its source in Hopkinton, it flows 129 kilometres through cities and towns in the eastern part of the state until reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Boston. Despite its diminutive length, the Charles River has a relatively large drainage area; its watershed contains over 8,000 acres of protected wetlands. Considering that Brandeis University, Harvard University, Boston University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sprung up along its shores, perhaps there is something in the water that invigorates the mind.
To the River Charles
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
River! that in silence windest
Through the meadows, bright and free,
Till at length thy rest thou findest
In the bosom of the sea!
Four long years of mingled feeling,
Half in rest, and half in strife,
I have seen thy waters stealing
Onward, like the stream of life.
Thou hast taught me, Silent River!
Many a lesson, deep and long;
Thou hast been a generous giver;
I can give thee but a song.
Oft in sadness and in illness,
I have watched thy current glide,
Till the beauty of its stillness
Overflowed me, like a tide.
And in better hours and brighter,
When I saw thy waters gleam,
I have felt my heart beat lighter,
And leap onward with thy stream.
Not for this alone I love thee,
Nor because thy waves of blue
From celestial seas above thee
Take their own celestial hue.
Where yon shadowy woodlands hide thee,
And thy waters disappear,
Friends I love have dwelt beside thee,
And have made thy margin dear.
More than this;–thy name reminds me
Of three friends, all true and tried;
And that name, like magic, binds me
Closer, closer to thy side.
Friends my soul with joy remembers!
How like quivering flames they start,
When I fan the living embers
On the hearth-stone of my heart!
‘T is for this, thou Silent River!
That my spirit leans to thee;
Thou hast been a generous giver,
Take this idle song from me.