I was surprised last evening to see three (now four!) of the Scarlet Emperor beans had already emerged. This time I eschewed the fancy little seed starter things and put the beans in dirt in large peat pots. I think sometimes we get “over-fancy,” and I’ve learned my beans like leg room. The pots they’re in should be big enough to hold them until, gasp, June. Because they are so sensitive to frost, they will be indoor beans for two full months.
It’s fine with me. I’m not sure they’re plants in my subjective universe as much as they are pets or allies or friends or something. On the advice of a reader, I’ve decided that they are reincarnations of previous bean iterations and will remain Tang Dynasty Chinese poets (anyone reading this feeling concerned about my mental health, really, it’s OK. I’m harmless). These three are Li Bai, Tu Fu and Wang Wei. Last year Wang Wei didn’t have a prayer. He got a late start and was planted in the front yard. He writes beautiful poetry and deserved better.
I named the first “generation” of Scarlet Emperor beans for Chinese emperors, but I figure it’s OK because I hadn’t grown those beans. They came from a packet. The three (now four!) succeeding generations came from beans that sprouted in my house, grew, bloomed and fruited in my back yard.
So, in honor of their emergence, here is a poem from the new collection of Tu Fu‘s poems I recently got.
After audience each day, I take
Some spring clothing to pawn: evening
And I return home drunk, now having
Debts for wine all over the place:
Few men ever reach seventy, and I watch
Butterflies going deeper and deeper
In amongst the flowers, dragon-flies
Skimming and flickering over the water;
Wind, light and time ever revolve;
Let us then enjoy life as best we can.
I have a little statue of Tu Fu here with me. He’s my favorite of this group of poets because he wrote two of the most beautiful lines of poetry I have ever read. In China, when I was so homesick for the Rocky Mountains, someone brought me a reproduction of a Chinese painting of Huang Shan, Yellow Mountain, so I could see mountains in my apartment. There were two lines printed on it in Chinese and I, of course, couldn’t read them. My friend Fu read them to me. They were the closing couplet from Tu Fu’s poem to Mt. Tai. Hearing them in Mandarin and then in English left a deep impression on me. I felt that long ago Chinese writer knew exactly how I felt.
When I left China, my friend presented two strips of rice paper on which he’d written these lines in his own beautiful calligraphy. The papers are long gone, but the image remains. And, by then, I could read most of the characters. Anyway, I’ll save that for another day. 😉