The Sweetness of the Fleeting

A plum tree covered with hundreds of white blossoms, and a cat at the bottom.

Here is our backyard. At the top you can see the plum tree in blossom, and at the bottom you can see one of our neighbors.

Right now, the plum tree in our backyard is covered with hundreds of plum blossoms, but not for much longer. I always look forward to seeing the plum tree come into full blossom every year. It lasts, at most, two weeks.

I was lucky to visit Dazaifu, a place in Japan famous for its plum blossoms, during its plum blossom season. It was gorgeous. I did not take any pictures because my camera was totally broken at the time, but the images are still vivid in my mind. (I’m sure you can find pictures of plum blossoms in Daizaifu somewhere on the internet).

Here is another photo showing branches of the plum tree in our backyard, as well as a different neighbor sitting in an adjacent yard. This type of neighbor tends to visit our backyard frequently, and occasionally visits our basement level.

Would I feel the same way about plum blossoms if the tree had flowers year-round? Probably not. I can’t imagine plum blossoms looking anything less than beautiful, but if I could see them at any time, I doubt I would cherish them the way that I do.

As part of the KonMari thing, I’ve made quite a few trips to the basement lately, and one of the things I uncovered was a 3D jigsaw puzzle depicting the Taj Mahal which I acquired from a neighbor in 2010. I had been planning to attempt this puzzle but, more than 8 years later, I had not even opened the box. It had just been sitting the basement for eight years. I then told myself that I was either going to try the puzzle NOW, or I was going to give away the puzzle and then I would never attempt it.

I decided that I was going to start on the puzzle, and that if I did not have fun, I would quit and just give away the puzzle. I could tell that this is exactly what my neighbor had done as I became familiar with the pieces (they had sorted some of pieces, but they had never taken some of the steps necessary to complete the puzzle). It had been a long time since I have put together a jigsaw puzzle, and I remembered that, yes, jigsaw puzzles are fun, and types of jigsaw puzzles I had never tried before, such as 3D jigsaw puzzles, are even more fun.

Since I was working on the puzzle in the context of a tidying/organizing project, I could not help but see some of the parallels between jigsaw puzzles and tidying/organizing. Puzzle pieces need to be sorted, just as items in a home need to be sorted. Puzzle pieces need to be put in the right place, just as every item needs a ‘home’ to prevent material chaos. To work on a puzzle most effectively, one needs to be able to visualize the end result, just as one can work on a tidying/organizing project most effectively if one can visualize the end result.

It took me a few weeks of working on the puzzle when I was in the mood to complete it.

The completed Taj Mahal 3D jigsaw puzzle, with my hand-dyed blanket as a backdrop.

I was really pleased with the results, but the completed Taj Mahal jigsaw puzzle takes up quite a bit of space, and since it is not particularly sturdy, special care needs to given to keep it intact long-term. Meanwhile, keeping it on that table meant I could not use that table for other purposes, which was inconvenient. I gave myself one week to enjoy the presence of the completed Taj Mahal jigsaw puzzle, then I would dismantle it and give it away.

My mother also really liked this 3D model of the Taj Mahal. I’m glad she enjoyed seeing it.

She tried a little harder to hold onto it. At first, she wanted to keep it in the house, but then she realized just how inconvenient it is to keep this kind of thing long-term (keeping it disassembled in a box is easy – I did it for more than eight years – but that’s not how my mother wanted to keep it). She could not find a place to keep this puzzle in the house where it would not get damaged or in our way. She then asked one of my cousins in Berkeley if she wanted it. I suppose this was her way of bargaining with the reality that keeping this model was difficult – maybe keeping it in the family was her idea of a compromise between keeping it and not keeping it. Unsurprisingly, my cousin said no. She then asked if I would ask people at the board games meetup I attend if they wanted it. I did not want to take it all the way to the meetup only to find out that nobody wanted the puzzle – too much bother, and more importantly, I did not want to apply peer pressure. I did not want someone to take it just to be nice to me.

I disassembled the puzzle, put it in the box, and then left it at one of the little free libraries in my neighborhood that is not so little and had more than enough space for the puzzle (in boxed form). The next time I passed by that free library, it was gone. Since I had originally gotten the puzzle for free from an anonymous neighbor, I feel that giving it to another anonymous neighbor has a pleasing symmetry.

I think I enjoyed having that Taj Mahal puzzle, both before and after I had completed the puzzle, because I knew it was going to be temporary in my life. If I had held on to it, I would have squeezed out most of the pleasure, but the inconvenience of having a large non-sturdy model made of foam would have remained.

As I go through the KonMari thing, I’m uncovering a lot of items which gave me a lot of pleasure in the past, but they no longer give me so much pleasure. And I am discovering that I enjoy a lot of items most right before they leave my life. It is really drilling into me the idea that holding onto anything and everything I enjoy, even to the point that I merely ~remember~ enjoying it without enjoying it in the immediate sense, is not the best way to get the most out of my material possessions. And sometimes, the bittersweetness of knowing that something is going to be gone soon, whether it is because I only had a few hours to see plum trees in Daizaifu, or because the plum tree in our backyard only blooms for 1-2 weeks per year, is very, very sweet.

6 thoughts on “The Sweetness of the Fleeting

  1. It’s Cherry Blossom 🌸 season here in the Washington DC area and yeah the trees are only in bloom maybe 3 weeks? A month at most? Makes sense that plum blossoms might be similar. This is the first I’m hearing of them. I get what you’re saying about the puzzle too 🙂

    Lots of great photos in this post.

    • I’m glad you like the photos!

      It’s now cherry blossom season here in San Francisco too, in fact I went to see cherry blossoms earlier today. Plum blossom season is generally a few weeks before cherry blossom season, but the plum tree in our backyard is a LATE BLOOMER (I am really tempted to turn this into an ace joke) so it tends to blossom in the gap between the plum blossom season and the cherry blossom season.

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