Chieko discovered the violets flowering on the trunk of the old maple tree.  ‘Ah.  They’ve bloomed again this year,’ she said as she encountered the gentleness of spring.

The maple was rather large for such a small garden in the city; the trunk was larger around than Chieko’s waist.  But this old tree with its coarse moss-covered bark was not the sort of thing one should compare with a girl’s innocent body.

The trunk of the tree bent slightly to the right at about the height of Chieko’s waist, and at a height just over her head it twisted even farther.  Above the bend the limbs extended outward, dominating the garden, the ends of the longer branches drooping with their own weight.

Just below the large bend were two hollow places with violets growing in each.  Every spring they would put forth flowers.  Ever since Chieko could remember, the two violets had been there on the tree.

The upper violet and the lower violet were separated by about a foot.  ‘Do the upper and lower violets ever meet?  Do they know each other?’ Chieko wondered.  What could it mean to say that the violets ‘meet’ or ‘know’ one another?

Every spring there were at least three, and sometimes as many as five, buds on the violets in the tiny hollows.  Chieko stared at them from the inner corridor that opened onto the garden, lifting her gaze from the base of the trunk of the maple tree.  Sometimes she was moved by the ‘life’ of the violets on the tree.  Other times their ‘loneliness’ touched her heart.

‘To be born in such a place and to go on living there…’

(Opening page of the The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata)