A Spring Diary

Richard Siyi HEMarch 4, 2024Crisis & ChangeFiction

Artwork by Arina Stetsiuk, age 14

(i)

Home is where people belong. It makes us emotionally attached to the things around our home, and when we see them, we feel a sense of belonging. Nevertheless, it is also because we are too familiar with them that we often forget to make conversations with these "old friends." Thinking of this, I stop and linger under the two tall Japanese cherry trees outside of the door. In the mottled shadows of branches and leaves, I begin a story with my closest “tree friends” and search for the traces of spring with them. On this beautiful day, a period of common yearning and longing between man and nature begins.

(ii)

Willow catkins fall like snowflakes, some hanging on green leaves, as if a thin veil covers the cherry blossom trees. I stand under the tree and look up, the sunlight shining through the branches and onto my body. The buttons on my clothes radiate the sunlight. I follow the light and find that it is reflected subsequently by a piece of medicine foil on the ground with the tree’s inverted image on it. I bend down to pick it up and put it on a conspicuous branch that has just sprouted, to let it be held by two small gray buds. A few days later, the medicine foil is gone. Although I am not sure if it has been taken back by its owner, I am relieved to see a few green leaves popping up next to the two buds, wrapping the buds like gentle hands.

(iii)

Time seems to pass slowly. Spring is so short, but the cherry blossom trees do not seem to grow. There are always a few small green lantern-like new leaves, always so green, leaving me disappointed every time I pass by with an eagerness to find some new signs. When I happen to see a few children running by, I realize that I was once that young too, and the branches were just above the tips of my hair at that time . . . Yes! The trees have grown much taller along with me. The changes may not be so obvious in a day, a month, or a year, but the accumulation over time can be remarkable. It feels like yesterday that I was still in elementary school, and now my junior high school life has passed. At this moment, I really want time to stay still, let spring pause and those little shoots never grow into branches, but time seems to pass faster and faster . . .

(iv)

The cherry blossom trees are enjoying their most delicate time of the year. Thousands of pink and white bow ties adorn them with the gentle touch of the breeze. I walk by, and the other pedestrians around walk by. How can we not notice them! The fragrance that fills the air attracts curious glances from dozens of meters away. They keep swaying and stretching. Get closer and close your eyes . . . a faint humming sound echoes in your ears. The pride of their blossoms can be sensed just by hearing and smelling.

How can this place of purity not make people stop and linger? Whenever the noise of the bustling traffic becomes overwhelming, the pink petals can always touch your softest state of mind, making you feel at ease in an instant. No matter how many troubles you had before, by passing them you will temporarily let go of everything, realizing the beauty of life and becoming intoxicated by them...

(v)

I gather many cherry blossom petals from the ground. Despite their having reached the end of their lives, being abandoned, withered, trampled, crushed, and ultimately fading into eternal slumber, I yearn to keep this spring forever.

Upon arriving home, the petals have begun to darken and wilt due to the separation from their source of life. I immediately fill a bowl with water. As the petals are immersed in the water, bubbles eagerly rush up to envelop them and momentarily restore their vitality. I mix glue with some alcohol, then find a chic little box, pour some glue into the bottom, put a layer of petals and repeat the process . . . In this way, spring has been retained forever, regardless of the cold and warmth of the outside world.

I scatter the rest of the petals into the flower pot, like a thin layer of dyed silk covering the dark soil. They will gradually decay and merge with the soil. The curious cat also sniffs with its nose, as if enjoying the lingering fragrance.

Every petal will be forgotten, even with my cherishing and collecting, which is a whim after all, and will eventually fade away. But they have been in the world, and have embodied value. The disappearance further highlights the beauty and preciousness of their blossom. I write them into this note to appreciate them and hope that the cherry blossoms will still be in their prime tomorrow morning.

(vi)

It is another day of yellow sand filling the sky. I cover my mouth tightly with a mask and turn my back to the wind, but the tiny grains of sand still find their way into the crevices of my clothes, constantly scraping against my skin. I anxiously glance toward the cherry blossom trees and, through the haze, I see the sand hitting the petals and the branches swaying. The sun’s rays scattering downward have turned orange-red, intertwining with the pink of the cherry blossoms, but it isn’t long before yellow engulfs everything.

When I go to see them again in the afternoon after the storm has cleared up, I expect the petals and buds to have fallen off, but instead find that they have grown stronger, only covered by a layer of dust. Especially in the center of the stamen where sand and dust have gathered, like a small hourglass. I long for a gust of wind to blow away all the sand obscuring their beauty, but they just stand there quietly.

I accidentally inhale a bit of dust and sneeze, "achoo." To my surprise, I blow away the sand on a flower bud, and she looks even more delicate and charming.

(vii)

With blooming comes withering. After a flash of brilliance, night falls and the lights from the towering buildings, like cherry blossoms, form clusters and forests, becoming the victors that replace the proud posture of the cherry blossom trees. They do not hasten to grow leaves, but strive to ensure that even the last flower blooms perfectly; they persist in growing branches, preparing for the heavy task of awakening again after resting. Before long, the “cherry blossoms” on top of and beside them in the buildings bloom again. Although these "cherry blossoms" are so dazzling, how could they compare to the trees’ once-a-year bloom with all their strength? They are finally engulfed in darkness but stand upright and persistent.

(viii)

"With a graceful dance, I took away the unruliness, and brought back nostalgia," said the Inawa God "Kiya Kaihanahime," roaming Japan. Departing from Okinawa, she scattered cherry blossom petals along the way, so she is also known as "March Yukihime." I also wish that a savior could enter the world where I am and bring March snow to me and those around me. But who is willing to be the one to redeem others? Because in the end, isn’t she the one who is left bruised and lacerated all over? Yes, looking down at the cherry tree trunk full of deep cracks, white frost, and thick juice seeping out from the layers of cracks. With a gentle touch, it flakes off like an old wall that has been weathered by wind and rain. The vermilion new skin on the inner layer slowly emerges as they are constantly tinkering with herself. Alas! In the end, Yukihime's martyrdom for the death of her beloved suddenly reminds me that when I first moved here, there was actually another tree next to the flower bed to the right of these two cherry trees. But after it died from illness, weeds gradually thrived. I already know that the trees won't follow along with me, so I leave my heart there.

(Final)

As soon as I step out of the house, unexpectedly, the wind is swept by the heat wave and slaps all over my body, making me feel uncomfortable. I use my hand to shield my eyes from the bright sun in the clear sky and barely see the scorched leaves. When I open the clusters of wrapped leaves, I find that there are bright yellow new leaves in the center, surrounded by the fiery red cracks of the old leaves. Whenever the wind blows, the trees look like they are burning.

Spring in Beijing is too short. The howling cold wind that seemed to still be present when I started observing has transformed into the chirping of birds. The trees are trying to make up for all the losses of the full blooms following the severe winter and to allow the leaves to suck as much sunlight as possible. They are undoubtedly grateful for spring, but they don’t dwell on it at all. They are willing to embrace any season, just like me. Looking at each other, we empathize. Even though the flowers have withered and the scorching heat will give way to the cold winter, we still do not cling to spring. Indeed, from their healed cracks and wounds, the branches that have been baptized by wind and rain, and the leaves that have begun to burn passionately, they are all already foreshadowing - after the blooming of spring, they will be able to face everything more tenaciously. Last year’s fallen leaves have turned into spring mud to continue nourishing them, and they understand that everything yet to come will sooner or later become a thing of the past. The trees and I share common memories of the past and have boundless expectations for the unknown tomorrow. We can only choose to look forward.

Seeking spring on fine spring days. From blooming to full of new leaves, the trees are the creators of fine days. I will continue to pass by these creators every time I go out in the future, and each passing will become the past and also an expectation for the next time.

The spring breeze leads me forward. When I finally take a hurried look back, I can only vaguely hear the chirping of summer cicadas. On this fine day, I find spring and also a common vision for the future with the cherry blossoms.