Marlene Hauser

Cherry blossoms on moon

2024, Hanami and a Gibbous Moon

Hi Everyone,

For me, there was no clear line drawn between the passing of 2023 into 2024 on New Year’s Eve, no high spirits, complete with ball drop, glitter, music, dancing to an exquisitely orchestrated fireworks display. There was simply a delicious family meal with a brief look back at the past year, a tiny look forward, a toast with sparkling Appletiser, a log on the fire and a resolution (which has been around for quite a while): to be authentic no matter what, genuinely kind and totally real.

Nothing new, particularly. Just a nice December evening in a snug house in a lovely town, where an over the top party seemed rather inelegant given the intense conflicts going on in different parts of the world, where men, women and children are dying; in fact, they are being killed. No, I cannot imagine. The constant flow of images on my TV seem to lessen the reality, the immediacy, the bloodshed, the pain and the grief. I cannot envision anything this New Year’s Eve except a desire for peace.

With all in bed by 12:30 a.m., and except for the odd boom of pyrotechnics somewhere off in the distance, it was a very quiet New Year’s here in Oxford. I know that life must carry on in the face of death, destruction, conflict, terrorism, and that we must celebrate, live and go about our daily chores. But still, as I burrow down, safe and warm, with clean sheets, under a winter-weight duvet and the central heating rattling on, I hear what I picture to be a Notorious Rocket (195 grams of gunpowder) explode a few blocks away, and consider “what if?”

What if that boom and that cascade of red light were not a fireworks display but an incoming missile and my home, my family, my child, my pet were at stake? Where would I go? How would I manage, how would I protect them? Would I panic? What if I took direction and evacuated only to find my place of refuge obliterated?

The politics and the strategy of the current war zones are beyond me, my knowledge of history and understanding of these longstanding conflicts limited, and yet there is one small signpost in my own modest garden that at once takes my breath away and gives me peace. A previous owner planted a winter-flowering cherry tree, and on New Year’s Eve when I could not sleep, this strangely early blooming tree took me even more by surprise under the bright, just waning gibbous moon than it has previously.

Introduced into Britain from Japan in the 1800s, ornamental cherry trees and their blossoms symbolise the transience of life. Every spring the Japanese practise hanami, or cherry-blossom viewing, a time to appreciate the fleeting beauty of the delicate flowers and their short season, but also to foster an awareness of the very brevity of life itself. In the fresh air, I stood for just a few minutes, as the white, midwinter buds of my tree seemed to burst into a moonlit gala of their own. Suddenly, I felt purified, hopeful, renewed in the knowledge that, no matter how brief, how short, life will go on, winter will turn into spring, night into day and eventually war into peace.

Let’s hope. Let’s pray, in 2024, for the release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire.



Photo by  jakkapan21 | iStock