Flowerless flower

I thought for sure we’d get the killer frost predicted for the night before last, but the thermometer read 33 (F) at dawn; there was just one, little patch of white down by the stream. But friends in the valley told us it got down to 26 degrees there. I had picked all the green tomatoes and brought them inside to ripen, but now, who knows how much longer the growing season might last? Very few of the certainties about the weather that I learned growing up in the 70s seem to apply anymore.

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Yesterday I cracked out my trusty Chinese character dictionary and attempted a translation for y’all. I have left the subject ambiguous, as it is in the original. (The standard interpretation says the poem is about a woman.)

Flowerless Flower
sung to the tune of a popular song with the same title
by
Bai Juyi (also known as Po Chü-yi, 772-846)

Flowerless flower,
Of mist yet not of mist,
Comes around midnight,
Goes away at daybreak.
Comes like a dream of spring: so brief.
Goes like a cloud in the morning sky: no trace.

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