Almost 100 years ago, a Tokyo mayor gave the people of the United States an extraordinary gift of 3,000 cherry trees. The trees were planted along the Tidal Basin near the nation's capital. Since then the sakura have bloomed in pink profusion in spring and have become a transplanted national treasure. This past weekend marked the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which will run for two weeks.
Seeing the cherry blossoms this year will bring a mix of sweetness and sadness. Nature gives us this incredible but brief show to enjoy every year. But the natural world also just dealt an incredible blow to Japan, shifting the main island by several feet and indeed shaking the earth on its axis. Terra firma could not be trusted--the very ground quaked, shifted, cracked--and the beautiful sea, depicted in screenprinted images of Matsushima Bay, rushed in to destroy.
How do we reconcile the beauty and the destruction? Buddhists have a certain way of viewing the cherry blossoms. They enjoy the beauty of the blossoms but recognize that at the height of their beauty they are about to fall. Death resides in their flowering, and their beauty is all the more poignant because it is so fleeting. The sakura teach us about life's impermanece even as we are celebrating this season of rebirth.
My limited Western mind has a hard time internalizing these concepts as words. They are easier to understand when I think in the language of the cherry trees. They dress in their fanciest clothes for a very little while. They don't know if a late snow will ruin them. But they dress up anyway in a joyful, hopeful seeding of the next generation that is also their gift to us.
I hope you make the time to enjoy the cherry blossoms and other flowering trees that are filling bare branches with color as March comes to a close.
I couldn't resist stitching sakura branches and my simplified versions of their blossoms on a Crafting for Courage bunny yesterday. I guess it's my way of holding on (literally) to that fleeting beauty and remembering that it will come again.
I had a very helpful elf in Texas test out the pattern to make sure that my pattern pieces matched up with one another and instructions made sense. My mom, who won the Betty Crocker Homemaking Award in high school and is a talented seamstress and embroiderer, very sweetly offered to make some bunnies from her stash of felted sweaters. They turned out beautifully, and it is such fun to see the infinite combinations of fabrics that can be assembled to make each bunny unique, with its own personality.
Have a wonderful week!