Nothing at all

Last Sunday in January: the dead of winter. Japanese Government toying with extending the latest Covid Emergency Order. Almost the end of the university year. Still one online lecture, three classes to grade and eleven grad theses to go. At home, almost at the end of our tether: getting on each other’s nerves.

Looks sunny. We strip off all our sheets and put them in the washing-machine; futons, out to the terrace to dry. Sunday, right? So, where to go for a kibun-tenkan (change of surroundings)? I ask my wife.

“The Botanical Gardens.”

“There’ll be nothing out,” I say.

We go.

Rounding the first corner… and a freak shower is racing towards us from the north! We rush back home, unlock the front door. Sprint upstairs to the terrace, as icy rain comes blasting through; hurl those futons and sheets back inside… then drape them all over the furniture in our living room.

We set off once more.

Entering the Gardens. Nothing out at all. Just a few bobbly white buds on the mitsumata (paper-making bush).

As a last resort, we head for the glasshouse.

The orchid exhibition —
each one a fashion statement
with its own devotees

There is a small voting-box, at one end of the hall, and a stack of cards and pencils. All are urged to vote for their favourite bloom. I find myself tending towards no. 37.

Taking off my mask
to smell the orchid —
nothing at all!

12 responses to “Nothing at all

  1. The little bright surprise at the end to fill a gloomy day in winter.
    Nice . . . like finding a cherry in a dry cake.
    Strange how the most glorious-looking birds have harsh or even ugly voices, and attractive blooms little or disappointing scents. It’s as if ‘Somebody’ said, Well, you have one attribute…what more could you want?
    Nothing at all, say the orchids.

  2. Nice writing, Tito. What an adventurous Sunday you have had! I am envious of your ability to visit the Botanic Garden, even if nothing is blooming. Here we can’t travel beyond 5 km from home, and that barely takes me to the next little town. I wonder is the practice of having a voting box in the orchid greenhouse a common practice in Japan? I like the idea, but I never came across it.

    • Yes, Norman, we have a less stringent situation out here right now, although strict enough to have forced Hailstone to cancel its last three seminars and stay at home. It was only in the glasshouse that I became a little conscious of the need to maintain social distance. Fortunately, at that time of year the Gardens were not that busy. Not that empty either, though, either! Strangely, just one minute or so before noticing the voting box, I had thought to myself ‘It would be a great idea to be able to vote for your favourite bloom’ as quite naturally the desire to find your own favourite (then share it with a companion) wells inside one while walking around the exhibits (performers?). I don’t recall ever having seen such a box before, though I bet the bonsai people do it, too. The hidden ‘moral of the story’ was that it was only because I had buried my own reservations and gone with my wife’s pleasure that I ended up with such a surprising reward in the midst of the Covid desert. It’s a funny old world!

  3. … so the pansy display and red blooms disappeared in one short, cold month leaving only the hot house gems of orchids? Christmas Day, the gardens were ghostly…almost no-one at all to hear our fellow alto and I sing near the dark concert hall. This haibun surely marks the sense of frustraion that made up part of January – splashes of colour in a brush stroke of nihilism? Perhaps the mystery is that the coloour is there at all with the outside freeze…loved the dynamism of the dash back encountering the icy squall. A farewell to January. Ahhh – welcome in, February.

  4. A nice eruption of dry Tito wit.

    that frazzled feeling of waiting for the end of winter, end of covid. And yet, snow on the distant hills.

  5. Enjoyed reading this haibun —
    a grey winter uplifted by the colours of orchid flowers —
    .. but most orchids do have a scent , ambiguous funny ending —
    hopefully you didn’t have anosmia

    looking forward to seeing you on zoom next month

    • That day, I checked just a few blooms with my nose. One did have a perfume – unmistakable – but most didn’t, espec. #37! You mention ‘anosmia’, the loss of smell said to be a sign of contracting coronavirus. When I later found a scented one, I admit I was quite relieved!