Which is a reminder that even in winter, things grow.
Japanese magnolias are why I like cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossoms remind me of Japanese magnolias. In early spring, in both types of trees the blooms appear before the foliage arrives. When I was younger and living in in southern Louisiana, I thought that this phenomenon was particularly spectacular. The way that the bud blooms at the end of the woody stem fascinated me.
Cherry blossoms are global symbols for patience, renewal, and rebirth. There’s a scene in the movie The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise and Ken Wantanabe that captures this idea well. *Spoiler Alert* After capturing Tom Cruise’s character as a war prisoner, the two men, Katsumoto and Nathan, grow to respect one another as Katsumo notes “students of war.” During one of the scences, the cherry blossoms in Katsumoto’s garden have just bloomed and the two are strolling among them contemplatively. Glancing at one of the buds, Katsumoto says to Nathan, “One could spend an entire lifetime searching for the perfect blossom, and it wouldn’t be a wasted life.” I don’t know about that statement personally. Yes, the blossoms are pretty, but they are pretty darn temporal too. I think the lyric in the Fall Out Boy song more realisticly notes that, “They look so pretty but [they’re] gone so soon.”
Sakura season in DC is special.
The famous cherry blossoms that line the Tidal Basin in Washington, were a gift from the Japanese government to the government of the United States as a gesture of armistice after World War II. When I learned that, I knew where to place cherry blossoms within the overall landscape of my headspace among roses, magnolias, and edibles flowers. From this vantage point, a cherry blossom tree seems to me to be the perfect gift to symbolize the gesture of an unshakeable friendship after a war. In my opinion, its just the type of serenely humble gesture that a country who’s general worldview embraces a rich historical philosophy related to nature and spirituality does. To me it’s an elegant gesture as if to say, you bombed us first, we returned the favor, but let’s move on from that.
Seasons always change.
Regardless of the non-permeance of any bloom, the thing about the cherry blossoms is that they always seem to emerge at the knife edge of winter. Just when I feel like I can’t take anymore 32 degree Fahrenheit nights and I’m SO OVER putting on my puffer coat just move the trashcans from the front of the house to the sidewalk the cherry blossoms arrive like Punxsutawney Phil singnaling that winter is just about done.
Winter 2020 was especially difficult and it was different because of social distancing and pandemic related restrictions. A unique genre of political turmoil was moving thrsough the world and here in Washington. The season felt longer than usual. It was unprecedented by media’s standards, but it was also somehow particularly vacant of warmth like a wormhole in outerspace vast and without an endpoint in sight.
Flowers that grow in winter, bloom in spring.
On one of those cold, winter, nights, I was chatting with a friend about pandemic related things and she halfway jokingly said, “Looking forward to seeing you at one of our [she and her spouse’s] garden parties in the spring.” At the time, it kind of made us both giggle because I’m not sure that either of us are truly the garden partying type, but in the moment it was a welcomed pleasantry and ending salutation enough to help keep us optimistic that we would be able to hang out in-person again someday in warm weather. Almost immediately after we chatted, I thought of the song “Danca De Gardenias” by Natalia Lafourcade feat. Los Macorinos. In particular, the lyrics in the chorus which go like this:
Ese antiguo encanto dentro de tu pecho reflorecerá
Una danza llena de gardenias plenas reflorecerá”
Perhaps in the original context, the lyrics refer to a heartbroken maiden reminding herself that time heals wounds and that her broken heart will mend. But to me, the lyric that “it will bloom again” — reflorecerá affirms that seasons change. The lyric fits perfectly with the idea that winter will end, just as the cherry blossoms and Japanese magnolias bloom in spring. It’s a celestial reminder that what feels like the end is often the beginning.
It’s like the final sentence of my favorite fiction novel:
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables