Mono no aware is a Japanese expression, there is no exact translation of the term but is used to illustrate the concept of impermanence of life and the bittersweet emotions that this awareness of the fleeting invokes in us. It speaks of the fragility of our unwitting desire to keep things same and the inevitability of it not being so. The term has a somewhat melancholic tinge that something, which is precious to us, whether to our eyes, ears or soul, will fade or die. It is often used for the cherry blossom in Japan- they flower intensely but fall with the first strong breeze, ‘blink twice and they are gone’, it is famously said.
As the flowers die and the petals fall, cherry blossoms line the streets like a layer of soft, pink snow, and then that too is washed away and nothing remains, except for the bare branches.
Yet we can reminisce its glory and bask in the nostalgia, even if with a little sadness.
The Cherry Blossom Relationship
I remember a relationship in my life, my cherry blossom. It came in a burst, scenting my days with its copious beauty and then, faded away, just like that in the blink of an eye. I did not regret its occurrence or end, nor did he. We still chat or connect over a greeting or sometimes stop to acknowledge a post here or there on each other’s social media. At times we share a line that has caught our attention. And the exchange is always about beauty and it perfumes our world even though we are hundreds of kilometers apart.
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His insights were calming
He was muscular, though short, an ex-Indian Navy who had taken an early retirement. With an extremely distinct calm personality, he had the effect of a soothing gel, literally! He practiced meditation and yoga regularly and shared interesting insights of his sailing days.
“A net would be suspended from our ship. Our favorite nighttime activity was to go and plop in and gaze at the night stars. All we saw as far as our eyes could, was the deep dark of the night with the small tiny bursts waltzing silently in the dead of the night. That was the most peaceful I have ever been,” he had shared once.
“Having been a part of such unbounded beauty kind of stays with you and reminds you of how small and silly our issues are when you think of them against the vast expanse.” Understanding this is one thing and being able to incorporate that in your daily life is another. Well, he definitely did not have the short fuse that most of us juggling a city life do and so he did walk the talk.
He had a way with words
He thought deeply about the things we just live with. And often we had these discussions. “Matrimony, or in contemporary times, ‘exclusive’ couples, inevitably consider the marriage contract or live-in agreement as a decree to give up personal choices. An agreement for ownership of each other’s body, mind and soul, where there can be no more individual passions or personal ambitions. Unshared happiness, thoughts or emotions are a strict No! No!,” he had shared once.
Another time he asked me about something and why I couldn’t give that ‘something’ up. I had said because I don’t want to seem like a failure. He asked in ‘failure in front of whom?’ That simple question opened floodgates, which I needed to face…
He sang from his soul
And he sang, I wouldn’t say beautifully, he did not have the perfect tone, sometimes the rhythm was a bit off too, but he sang from his soul. I could almost feel the words he sang. And for those moments I felt like the queen! It’s beautiful to feel like someone’s queen, you know, even if for some moments!
And yes, he sent his recordings on Smule, loads of them. I knew he knew that I had just about heard them for him with my fake responses and that was okay too.
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There was a strange compatibility between us
I remember our morning conversations; we would both be up at the crack of dawn, go through our meditation sessions and exercise for the day and somewhere at some point before I had my breakfast and he was getting prepared to start his work day he would show me his stack of tea bags and I would pick his flavor for the day. He would leave it for brewing after which we’d chat as he went about ironing his pant and shirt. And then we’d both go about our day working, chilling and chatting. And during all those messages and conversations we were each other’s listeners. We really did listen and witnessed and when asked gave our opinion or advice.
At times we struggled; with the Internet connection, sometimes our devices ran out of battery, often a mismatch in free time. We understood when the other was with their partner and reconnected only when convenient. And for those days that the other wasn’t there, there was no backlash.
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Why the relationship was my cherry blossom
Why do I think of that relationship as my cherry blossom? Because:-
It didn’t ask anything of us, what was, was. What wasn’t wasn’t.
Life in those conversations seemed light, not heavy!
I didn’t have to struggle with not wanting or wanting.
Even as we both cut down on our talking, it seemed natural, like that is where the flow led.
It has been almost 2 years to this cherry blossom and I came across the term mono no aware and shared it with him. And then sat and wrote this piece! Just like the concept understood that things can be beautiful and have meaning without them to last a lifetime.