Year of Grace, Day 79. In the spring, the dawn

This morning’s sky brought to mind Sei Shonagon’s lines about the seasons in her Pillow Book (Makura no Soushi 枕草紙). I realise it’s not yet officially spring, but the clouds to the northwest gently tinted and layered with soft purple, actually mauve, and gold fitted her words so closely, that I could not resist sharing them with you. Today is an extraordinarily mild (12 ºC) spring-like day: the sun is out now, but it was quite shy this morning, and rain is predicted.

Lady-in-waiting to the Empress Sadako during the Heian period, Sei Shonagon (966–1017/1025) was famed for her keenly honed wit and equally katana (Japanese sword)-sharp tongue, according to Murasaki Shikibu at any rate (the other notable Japanese female Imperial court writer and novelist).  I’ve searched online for an English translation but found none directly to hand within the time I’ve allocated to writing my morning journal, so you’ll have to make do with my rather rough approximation in haiku. If someone can offer a closer translation, I’d be very grateful.


The Pillow Book

In the spring, the dawn.

Its gentle light

Limns mountain heights,

And cloud tips mauve.

Makura no soushi

Haru wa akebono.

Youyou shiroku nariyuku yamagiwa sukoshi akarite, murasaki dachitaru

Kumono hosoku tanabikitaru.

Northwest clouds, below is the centre of Bonn

Northwest clouds, below is spread Bonn’s town centre; beyond are mountains.


While searching for a translation, I came upon the story of another Japanese artist – Fujiko Hemming, a pianist whose lifestory moved me close to tears.  Listen to her virtuosity on Youtube.

For glorious skies like this morning’s and inspiring and heroic creative women, I am thankful. On such a sunny and mild day, my garden beckons and I shall see what surprises await. I wish you all a lovely spring-like midwinter day.