The rain subsided by the time Zolenge Bordwin arrived at the corner of Broadway and Villard Avenue in Hastings last Saturday, April 18. Perhaps Mother Nature sensed that a small, but notable effort was about to be made.
That afternoon, the 17-year-old high school senior, along with her parents, Gaby and Andrew, strung pieces of pink paper from the cherry blossom trees at that intersection.
On each sheet, a haiku or a wish had been printed along with a single word from that text and the Japanese kanji for that word. Most were written by area residents. Zolenge added a couple from Matsuo Basho, a Japanese poet who lived from 1644-1694.
Last year, Zolenge hosted a cherry blossom festival at that park. This year, due to prohibitions against gatherings, she decided to turn the festival into a virtual event. The haikus and wishes were solicited through notices posted online.
“I remembered that spring would go on despite the terrifying events,” she said. “So, I decided to continue the festival to show that life must go on and that there is still beauty to be found all around if you look for it.”
Many of the 63 submissions thus far refer to the Covid-19 crisis. Kristine Schnur, for example, wrote “Silver lining, where? / Apart now but together / Closer than ever.” Another poem, attributed to @fourbreaths, describes a now everyday experience: “a flicker of light / tone chimes / an image appears / we gather on zoom”.
In the fall, Zolenge will move on to Connecticut College, to study Japanese. For now, she continues to accept submissions, one per person, at email@example.com.