It's simpler than the Catherine Wheelers and lighter too, which was good because I wanted the shawl to have a lightness about it, like the gossamer blossom it evoked.
I grew up in one of the leafy suburbs of North-West London in a house that was called "Cherry Trees" and when my parents bought the house in February 1971 there were no less than four glorious cherry trees in the front garden. They flowered late, not before the end of April or even early May often, but when they did, the flowers came in great clouds of the palest pink blossom; innumerable, soft, cushiony bunches of flowers; and as a small girl I loved gently to bury my face in them. The trees were quite short ones and by standing on tip-toe on the front step of the porch, I could reach the lower branches fairly easily. Unscented and fragile, yet overwhelmingly beautiful both to the eye and the touch, they were iconic markers of the passing seasons and although, depending on the weather, the blossom might not be there for long, full to the brim with blossom is how I remember the trees, rather than in their more prolonged, leafy, but flowerless, state.
Sadly those four trees are long gone and, for some unknown reason, my parents have never replaced them. Parents often have odd kicks to their gallops, much to the puzzlement of their children! I say that, perfectly sure that H thinks that about me sometimes! But whenever I go home to my parents' house, whether it's May, November or anywhere in between, the cherry blossom floods my memory and my mind's eye and it always will, even though all that remains of the original trees is their stumps, now festooned with rather a lot of ivy.
In Japan, the home of flowering cherry trees par excellence, going to see the cherry blossom is a major event and not purely a superficial or aesthetic one. The activity even has a special name - it's called "hanami". And the word for cherry blossom - "sakura" - does not just stand for the flowers themselves but the reflections of transience and fragility that the flowers evoke. Japanese poets have written haikus and other poetry about them for centuries and they have become icons. Desirable, sublime, exquisitely beautiful yet also fleeting, ephemeral and elusive, like Life itself and the Japanese custom of going to view the cherry blossom each Spring is also an act of Reflection On Life.
There is something both poignant and exquisite about that reflection. We are not here forever, despite the subtle undertow of much in modern society that either tries to avoid recognising our mortality, or deliberately represses it. I have a feeling that this has become the last taboo of the 21st C - one of the things one may not say or talk about much, if at all. Facing the truth however, need not and should not, I think, prevent us from living the time we've got as fully and as delightedly as we can. In fact, I think, the effect of facing it, enhances life rather than the opposite. Although the realisation is tinged with wistfulness, if anything, for me, it sharpens my focus and my depth of vision on what life's about and all it has to offer and be in the present moment.
There's a lovely extract from an interview by Melvyn Bragg with Dennis Potter shortly before he died in 1994 which makes this point exactly. The playwright talks about all sorts of stuff but knowing he has only a few months left to live, inevitably he gets on to living and dying.
"We're the one animal that knows that we're going to die and yet we carry on paying our mortgages, doing our jobs, moving about, behaving as though there's eternity in a sense and we tend to forget that life can only be defined in the present tense.
It is "is"; and it is now only. As much as we would like to call back yesterday and indeed yearn to and ache to sometimes, we can't. It's in us, but we can't actually; it's not there in front of us. And however predictable tomorrow is - unfortunately for most people, most of the time, it's too predictable, they're locked into whatever situation they're locked into ... Even so, no matter how predictable it is, there's the element of the unpredictable of the you don't know. The only thing you know for sure is the present tense, and that nowness becomes so vivid to me now, that in a perverse sort of way, I'm almost serene; I can celebrate life.
Below my window in Ross, when I'm working in Ross, for example, there at this season, the blossom is out in full, there in the west early. It's a plum tree. It looks like apple blossom, but it's white. And looking at it, instead of saying, "Oh, that's nice blossom, last week looking at it through the window when I'm writing, I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomiest blossom that there ever could be and I can see it.
Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn't seem to matter - but the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous."
You can read a full transcript of the interview, if you're interested, here.
Lots of things in life can remind us unexpectedly of our mortality. One doesn't want to dwell on that aspect of them unnecessarily or morbidly but if they make us see the world and ourselves more intensely and vividly, they are strangely precious gifts that may make our lives more alive than ever before.
I wanted to photograph my Cherry Blossom Shawl against one of the flowering cherry trees in my current garden but the appalling Siberian weather the UK has been suffering - three sudden inches of snow here on Sunday last - means that I would have had to wait until Lent was long gone, for any blossom to be out and I wanted to send my shawl off to its recipient. So when looking to nature fell short, I looked to art to fill the void and made my own crocheted cherry blossom.
Using the long tails left over from crocheting them, I tied them to a bunch of hazel twigs brought in from the cold that are now happily surrendering their furry catkins for bright new leaves in the warmth of the house.
A passable imitation for the real thing, at least until the real thing flowers outside!
And because this shawl had become a Cherry Blossom Shawl in colour and pattern, I couldn't resist adding a few blossoms to one corner of the shawl.
Have I gilded the lily, or rather, the cherry? Possibly I have, but I couldn't resist!
These less puffy blossoms are from the pattern by King Soleil here which makes nice neat flowers that lie flat against the shawl fabric.
If the recipient finds them too much of a good thing, she can always snip them off! But I hope that regardless of this she will enjoy the idea of snuggling herself in a nest of soft pink cherry blossom and that whatever avenue her reflections take her in, this shawl will bring her as much vivid delight as I have had in making it.
I have to confess that I am slightly sad that Lent is drawing to a close. It has been such a creative time and I can only hope that what I have made for others gives them even half as much as making has given me. It's been an extraordinary adventure and one which I relinquish somewhat reluctantly. But all good things come to an end and there are WsIP a-plenty a-calling me, not least my Sea-Ripple, some projects left over from the first half of last year (ahem!) and one or two newer ones as well as some anticipatory summer sewing! So onwards and upwards!
But secretly, and just between you and me, I am already looking forward to next Lent!