Still cold in the early morning spring – I put on my shiney orange super-hero jacket and my blue spirit-of-the-water hat. Then out back to the azalea – the purple-full-blooming-beneath-the-bare-crab-apple azalea. (As I write, I notice that I like the word azalea. So many a’s and the precious z – as if there were a zebra hiding in there or this were the perfect solution to a mysterious set of Scrabble letters.)
In this cool weather we’ve been having – the pinky purple azalea blossoms have been out for nearly two weeks. A long life for these extravagant and tissue thin creations.
I stand in front of this particular bush trying to learn something.
I wonder if the ancestors of this azalea wandered the hills of China? Maybe one once grew near a hermit’s hut. I suspect he was only a mediocre hermit. Not one of the real high class guys who lots of people visit and then tell stories about how awesome he is. Just one of the hermits where it was hard to know whether he was on a spiritual path, or just a kooky guy living in the woods. It wasn’t clear whether his life was a success or a failure. And maybe he doubted too, but was somehow faithful.
Whoever he was, I imagine he loved the azalea that bloomed near his hut. Through the cold winter he was content enough, but secretly he longed for the easy warmth of summer. This azalea may have been his unrestrained reminder of returning life. How could he help but smile deep in his belly? Facing this quick manifestation of the irrepressible fullness that is already proceeding - even while the trees are still barren and the chill of winter lingers in the air.