The Chinese name for the peony is sho yu. It means, simply, most beautiful. The poet Sensei Ogui finds a lesson in its moment of lifetime:
Peonies bloom on peony trees.
A cat doesn’t become a chicken.
Tulips are tulips, not roses.
Why can’t we realize this true fact?
That to be me is great.
I don’t have to be anyone but me.
I am blooming as I am in my life, just as a peony blooms on a peony tree.
Further, a beautiful peony flower does not worry about when it will wilt and fall to the ground.
It does not compete with the flower next to it;
rather it blooms with its whole self.
~Sensei Ogui, from “Zen Shin Talks”
Peony photos by Mary O’Connor, © 2013