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Chinese woodblock print of orchids (postcard)

Hanakotoba is the language of flowers: emotions or messages are communicated through the symbolism of flowers. Since it turned summer on June 21st, I figured I’d tell you about the meaning of orchids.

Mahjong Guardian Stone Summer OrchidAs a mah jongg-player I thought it was THE flower of the season, orchid being the Summer Guardian Stone. But having looked into Japanese flower symbolism, I seem to be wrong! Yeah well, mah jongg is originally Chinese, so.. :) Never mind. As the game is being played in Japan as well, this post is still relevant as my submission for June’s Hello Japan! mini challenge about Flowers & Japanese Gardens. ;)

Mahjongg Card Summer OrchidStarting of with a haiku by Yosa Buson (1716 ~ 1783), translated by R.H. Blythe.

An evening orchid,
Hidden in its scent,
The flower’s whiteness
yoru no ran
ka ni kakurete ya
hana shiroshi

The orchid represents refinement. It is no common plant and it’s pleasures are reserved for the privileged few, so it is also a symbol of the rare and precious. The essence of refinement is an continual process of improvement until absolute perfection is reached.

In the art of fortune telling with mah jongg cards or stones, the Orchid Guardian protects young girls. If it appears in response to a question about a daughter or a younger female relative, it serves to allay any anxieties regarding their welfare.

I have a white orchid at home. It was a birthday gift from my aunt several years ago. White seems appropriate for a flower like this, since it indicates purity and cleanliness in traditional Japanese society, and is seen as a blessed colour because of its sacred nature: it’s the colour of the gods and therefore free of all ‘contamination’. But what is maybe best — if you’re into Zodiac signs that is (which I’m really not) — the white orchid belongs to my sign of Pisces.

White orchids

I’ll leave you with the Japanese version of a beautiful song about flowers by Einstürtzende Neubauten: Blume, sung by Etsuko Sakamaki-Haas. I invite you to listen to the English translation afterwards.

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. June’s mission is ‘Flowers and Japanese Gardens’.

When we collected our organic vegetables at the Groenekans distribution point last Friday, we got this lovely field-bouquet.

Colourful organic field-bouquet from Groenekans

Groenekans is the second local farm we get our groceries from. It works different from Amelis’Hof in that we can pick our choice from a weekly list instead of getting a surprise batch of greens, and pre-funding is on a voluntary basis. Because we do pay an amount in advance they gave us these colourful flowers. Nice, eh? I’m not much of an expert on flora, but I bet some of them can be eaten or made into tea… Still, I like ‘em just where they are on the dining table :))

Now, on with the vegetables we got from Amelis’Hof in the last few weeks, our first (bio)organic resource. Although they didn’t only land in our kitchen this time… When Mr Gnoe and I were on a trip to Paris two weeks ago, my friend Elsje took hold of them in our place! She was sweet enough to make a photo so that we would actually know what we had missed out on :)

Amelishof CSA vegetables week 36, 2010

Amelis'Hof CSA vegetables week 36, 2010

  • Endive
  • Aubergine (eggplant)
  • Lettuce
  • Runner beans
  • Carrots
  • Flat leaf parsley
Elsjes picture of Amelis'hof CSA vegetables week 35, 2010

Elsjes picture of Amelis'hof CSA vegetables week 35, 2010

  • Lettuce
  • Yellow & pink beetroot (OMG I never had those!)
  • Corn on the cob (yum!)
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
Amelis'Hof CSA vegetables week 34, 2010

Amelis'Hof CSA vegetables week 34, 2010

  • Leek
  • Fennel
  • Lettuce
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Dill
  • Courgette (zucchini)

There will be a new bag of vitamins waiting for us tomorrow afternoon — the last of the summer season… I’m hoping for a really sunny loot! :))

Lily of the Valley Postcard

Today I received this lovely Postcrossing postcard from Germany: a Lily of the Valley (called lelietje-van-dalen in Dutch, and Maiglöckchen in German). Amazone, it’s sender, took great care in finding a card that suits my interests and wrote a little on the back about our similar interests. I love it when people are so kind to a (relative) stranger!

I started Postcrossing in October 2008. I stopped for a while because I received so many (view)cards with only best wishes. What I like about postcrossing is hearing from fellow earthlings around the world, so I prefer it when they actually write to me ;) And sometimes I even think I like sending cards better than receiving them… Until I get a card like today — that makes my day!

It’s been raining continuously but it’s still spring; exactly the atmosphere these lovely dewy flowers communicate to me :)

Now I’m off to draw some new addresses from the tombola. I have this huge pile of unwritten postcards sitting in my drawer and I am not allowed to buy anything new until it has decreased notably — so let’s send them off!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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