When we lived in Tokyo, Japan, we learned about “hanami”, cherry blossom viewing – an annual tradition. Weeks in advance, estimates of when the cherry blossoms will bloom are published so gazers can schedule their viewing. Throngs of people descend on their favorite viewing patches, stake out their territory and picnic beneath the blossoms. It’s a beautiful ritual that signals spring – but it’s also fleeting, since cherry blossoms come and go very quickly. The story goes that Japanese samurai chose the cherry blossom as their symbol because cherry blossoms fall from the tree at the peak of their beauty… a reminder that life is fleeting. If you’re feeling philosophical, check out some thoughts on cherry blossoms, grace and dignity!
You can probably tell from the picture above that people are enjoying picnics and camaraderie beneath the beautiful trees. You probably can’t tell that they are actually in a cemetery – this cemetery happens to be known as a great place for hanami. This is some of what the surrounding area looks like…
At first, picnicing in a cemetery might seem strange – but on second thought, it seems just right. Sitting among your ancestors, enjoying a meal with the people you love – how perfect.
So what made me think about hanami in Tokyo seven years ago? On the trail near my house where I take my walks, the cherry trees are blooming. The pictures above from Japan were taken in April 2003, this one below in California was taken yesterday (February).
Just as in Japan, these blossoms are a signal of spring and renewal here, too. We had a few lovely sunny days with temperatures in the mid-60s, and it just makes me ready for the warmth. We always get a little teaser like this in February and, like the cherry blossoms, it’s fleeting. Today we are back to clouds and imminent rain, but I know we’re not too far away from sunshine, warmth and lots more blooms. Maybe this year we’ll have some picnics too, and we will most definitely have some cherries.
Wherever you are, I hope spring and renewal are right around the corner for you, too.