Dispatch № 61: But Only Just

35°51’32.6″N, 139°39’8.7″E

Thirty minutes after sunrise, still half dark. Snow just barely not sleet, wavering in that decision. It falls from a dull, featureless sky hanging over a thousand-year-old temple, and is blown at an angle by a moderately gusting wind.

It doesn’t come down in individual flakes, but in sloppy wet clumps, already partly melted by the time they land in slushy splashes, leaving crystals in wet splatters on every surface.

It falls on the ceramic tiles covering the temple roof, meltwater trickling to the eaves and flowing down to the ground on the chain gutters hanging languidly from the corners of the eaves.

It falls on the massive weeping cherry tree in the courtyard, and on the adjacent white stone bridge that spans the carefully raked gravel of the dry garden.

It falls on stone statues with both facial features and inscriptions worn indecipherable by centuries of exposure to the elements. It falls into the water that’s collected in the oval depression carved into the plinth at their feet, where coins are left as offerings.

It falls on the boulder to the right of the entrance, with its deep hollow always filled with water and always holding a floral arrangement, no matter the day, the season, or the weather. It falls on the white blossoms and red berries, their vibrancy and color whispering vitality into one small corner of a somber and listless morning.

It falls on everything, on every surface. It is quiet enough that the sound of it landing dominates the atmosphere. A melancholy static. Not quite the patter of rain, not yet the soughing of snow.

When the temperature drops another couple of degrees, it becomes more resolutely snow, though just a flurry, and can barely stick on the wet ground. This will be the only snow of the year.


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