Each autumn, blooming chrysanthemums offer a final burst of color before the cold. China introduced the flower to Japan in the 8th century CE. The chrysanthemum, or kiku in Japanese, has since become a venerable flower synonymous with the essence and art of Japan, appearing on the crest of the imperial family and treated with a great sense of ceremony. Japanese gardeners cultivate young chrysanthemums, tediously training a single flower to become a manicured arrangement.
My teammates and I lined up along the back wall of the gym. We lay on the floor, legs up the wall, arms straight out to our sides, palms up. Shimmying our legs into a deep straddle, we settled in. The girl on my right strapped weights to her ankles. A coach sat at the head of another, pushing the balls of his feet into her thighs to straighten her legs. Eventually, with the help of gravity, my heels rested on the cold cement floor. I wiggled my toes and watched the muscles in my legs undulate. We differentiated pain that injures from pain necessary for progress. After several minutes, our coaches were satisfied. Some girls moaned and worked their legs back… Read more »