Synaesthesia Magazine Green - Page 17

Once upon a time, in a distant land, there was a lonely little village. It was hidden away, deep within a valley of quiet forests, dappled sunlight and the dull buzzing of insects. Wooden houses with curved roofs, stone lanterns, labourers, artisans and ancient washer women, all resisted the relentless march of time amongst the faint scent of the cherry blossoms. What gave the valley such perennial beauty and fertility was Hohodemi; King of Cherry Blossoms, who sat atop a high plateau in the mountains.

The villagers were a pious people and, as such, they tended almost a thousand shrines with fervent dedication. Hohodemi himself was enthroned in the greatest of all the valley's shrine; Aomiya; a huge expanse of white paving with several halls sheltering modestly-sized brass Buddhas. These were mere distractions to the great deity that lay at the far end of the shrine.

Hohodemi's tree took a great deal of effort to reach - an uneven trek up the mountain, through a winding course of plum blossoms and breathtaking vistas - but the height only added to Hohodemi's visibility. In the spring, when the valley was transformed into a pearly pink from the cherry blossoms, Hohodemi dominated the landscape in both form and spirit.

Hohodemi stood 100 feet tall, with enormous weeping branches. His trunk was bound with a large sanctified rope with brilliantly white paper streamers hanging off it, and not one day in the thousand years of Hohodemi's life went by without the people of valley offering their prayers, worship and adoration. It was Hohodemi that gave the valley its natural grace, and his people loved him dearly for it.

It was Hohodemi's greatest shame, however, that despite his divinity and wisdom, he envied his worshippers for their mortality with an unbearable longing. He was fixated with his own death, forever forbidden to him, since it would also mean certain death for the valley. The sacred blood that pumped through his mighty trunk was a blessing to the land, and a curse to him. As much as he cared for those that worshipped every one of his meaningless twigs, a millennia in a prison of bark had become torture. Unable to comfort, console or die, Hohodemi felt more like an indentured servant than an almighty deity.

The Tree

and the Demon

by Vincent Kenny

Photograph: Christopher Atkinson