Sister Sakura: A Poem and Reflection for Springtime

This is a post by 瑠威 明 Francesco Matsuo. Lui is Japanese, FtM, was born in Japan and raised all over the world.  He was raised in a very conservative Buddhist family in a Shinto environment. Early in his life, he had an urge to become a Capuchin Franciscan or a Franciscan monk. However, due to his gender identity, he is still looking for any order that will accept him as who he is.

ueno-sakuraSister Sakura

You are wonderfully strong
Keeping the light of hope lit steadily
Believing that the future will be better
I don’t know how you do that
But I’m here to learn

You gently protect
The tender light of hope from harsh wind
Keeping it lit and sharing if you see one who is without
That is what you asked of me

It is undeniably tough at times
In the lonesome rainy season
Unstoppable tears just flow
And the burning heat of the summer
Dries up the spirit of hope
Angry wind of typhoons
Try to blow out the light of hope
And if not by blowing it out, by watering it out
With a grand tsunami
On and off, earth has trembled
And my knees have shook in insecurity

I made a promise to my Brother Francis
That I’d live up to the life he taught
To be cheerful and joyful at all times
Not to appear sad or gloomy on the outside ever
Because it is our job
To share the light of hope
To the ones who lost it
Somewhere along their journeys of life
With harsh cold piercing wind
I wonder if I’m keeping up the promise I made

I remember a visit I took
To a traditional dye house in Japan
Seeing the gorgeous silk for kimono
Dyed with flowers and grass by hand
Though I couldn’t see the beautiful colors
The distinct one was the dye made of Sister Sakura

For with her eye on what is yet to come
Sister Sakura always carries hope
Her flowers do not use it
Since they already carry hope of summer green
Her leaves and bark carry earthly hues
Like the beautiful carpet of autumn leaves
To get the the gentle tint of spring
She needs the baby branches in midst of winter
That’s when she prepares for the hopeful spring
Ready to show her kindest smile

Sister Sakura
You taught me how
To keep my light of hope lit all times
Next time I tripped on pebbles
Remind me again with your beauty
To keep my head up and aim for future
The current is already on the way from the past

———————-

On one occasion back in Japan, I was blessed with the chance to visit a traditional dye house in old capital Nara. Nara is the older capital before Tokyo, and even before Kyoto was selected as Nation’s Capital. Nara was capital back in the year 710 up until about 794, the time the capital was moved to Kyoto for the first time.

The dye house was a traditional one, so they showed how each silk was dyed by the hands of professionals. The lady who showed me around asked me what I would use to dye the silk a gentle tint of pink. The only thing that is pink that I knew of and could be used to dye the silk that came to my mind was Sakura flowers, since at the time the season was spring. I thought, “To dye it Sakura color you would dye with Sakura flowers!” She gave me a big winning smile and said, “You’d think so, right? But, interestingly, that’s wrong!” That grabbed my curiosity.  I guessed again this time with, “Cherry or cherry seed!”, and I got it wrong again. Back in early grade school I didn’t know that edible cherries didn’t come from the Sakura, even though Cherry (Sakurannbo) in Japanese has “Sakura” in its name! The lady with a kind smile told me that if we dye silk in Sakura flowers it becomes the light green of the new leaves that come after all the flowers shed have to the ground. “The tree and branches in summer would carry the earthly colors like the carpet of fallen leaves in autumn,” she continued, giving me a hint. I realized that the Sakura held the future season within, always preparing for the next one. So I said it had to be new branches that come in winter! She gave a big hug and told me I got it right that time.

It’s amazing that the plants know what season comes up next and prepares for it within their bodies. I remember being astonished by the fact, I even remember asking each Sakura tree as I passed,  ”How do you know when you don’t even have a brain?” Of course the trees didn’t answer me, but I kept on asking, because I wanted to know how.

In the original writings of St. Francis, which later became the rule for his order, he asked us to be joyful at all times, and never appear sad or gloomy on the outside. It is one of the toughest challenges St. Francis gave me. But, with the teaching of my dear Sister Sakura, hopefully I will overcome the tough tides that come and go as I take my life’s journey.

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