Sweeping the Path of Camellias

Near a shrine in Japan he’d swept the path
and then placed camellia blossoms there.

Or — we had no way of knowing — he’d swept the path
between fallen camellias.

~Carol Snow “Tour”

I’ve seen brilliant camellias blooming in Japan in late winter, a harbinger of the sakura blossom explosion right around the corner. The shiny-leafed camellia bushes are taller than I am, loaded with flowers, a showy yet still humble plant. As little else is blooming, walking along Tokyo rivers and pathways becomes a camellia scavenger hunt, checking out the different pinks and reds, looking for the most perfect blooms.

Although camellia blossoms are hardy enough to withstand variable temperatures and weather, their petals eventually begin to brown at the edges and wither. On windy days, the full intact blooms plop to the pavement without warning, scattering into a nubby floral throw rug. They are too bulky to step on, so the tendency is to pick a path around them, allowing them the dignity of a few more days before being swept away by street cleaners.

In an aging country of great order and tidiness, these fallen blossoms are almost sacred and clearly respected. They grace the paths the living still must navigate. They are indeed grounding for the passersby, reminding us our time to let go will come too. As we measure our steps, carefully making our way around their fading beauty, we acknowledge the blessing they unknowingly bestow.


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2 thoughts on “Sweeping the Path of Camellias

  1. Very nice!

    My mom loved camellias and had quite a few varieties. We still have her house and when they bloom, it is such a great reminder of her and her life and beauty. Now I can even look at the fallen flowers in a better light. Thank you for posting this. It really hit home.


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