Drinking Wine in the Shawdow of the Flowers-- the Chrysanthemum Festival
Wispy mist and thick clouds
The afternoon stretches on, endlessly in sadness
Sweet incense rises from a golden brazier
On this auspicious festival day—Chongyang.
As evening fall, the chills slips in
Through silken curtains to my little jade pillow
Sipping wine that evening—there by the eastern fence
The fragrance of the chrysanthemums filling up my sleeves, secretely, quietly
How can I not be distraught?
The autumn wind fills the curtains
I have grown thinner than the chrysanthemums.
Li Qingzhao--longing for her husband who was faraway on business, spent the day in bed-- drinking wine and composing poems, in the shadow of the flowers by the eastern fence (採菊東籬下).
Sending him the poem, it is said that when he read it, so impressed was he that he vowed to not leave his room until he had composed a poem back of equal perfection. Refusing all food and all visitors for three days, he composed poem after poem. Later, he would incorporate her words with words of his own in a poem that a friend would remark about, "there are only three good lines in this one" (and those three good lines were, of course, the ones he had borrowed from his wife's masterpiece!)
She was the greatest poetess in Chinese history. And like all great poets, she sought to refine her emotions in elegant and edifying metaphors about nature. Lady Li loved flowers and by situating her emotions in seasonal images, personal emotions were therby refined and made universal. But at the same time, she saw things in the flowers themselves that were admirable and worthy of emulation; for not only are flowers beautiful and joyous but they also symbolize strength and nobility of character-- attributes that we can all learn from. Or, in the words of my ikebana teacher, when a flower blooms, it either blooms in its fullest capacity and with all its might, or it’s a dud.
No half measures for flowers. --with Ting-Jen
Be like a flower, from Sri Aurobindo's The Spiritual Significance of Flowers
Be like a flower. One must try to become like a flower: open, frank, equal, generous and kind. Do you know what it means?
A flower is open to all that surrounds it: Nature, light, the rays of the sun, the wind, etc. It exerts a spontaneous influence on all that is around it. It radiates a joy and a beauty.
It is frank: it hides nothing of its beauty, and lets it flow frankly out of itself. What is within, what is in its depths, it lets it come out so that everyone can see it.
It is equal: it has no preference. Everyone can enjoy its beauty and its perfume, without rivalry. It is equal and the same for everybody. There is no difference, or anything whatsoever.
Then generous: without reserve or restriction, how it gives the mysterious beauty and the very own perfume of Nature. It sacrifices itself entirely for our pleasure, even its life it sacrifices to express this beauty and the secret of the things
gathered within itself.
And then, kind: it has such a tenderness, it is so sweet, so close to us, so loving. Its presence fills us with joy. It is always cheerful and happy.
Happy is he who can exchange his qualities with the real qualities of the flowers. Try to cultivate in yourself their refined qualities