Cherry blossoms

Charles 4 Comments


Posted by Vale

Blossom bursting from bare wood,
old hearts crack open
spring sunshine.

There is something unlooked for in the pleasures of spring: light, warmth and the flush of blossom; a sudden generosity beyond expectation.

Japan marks this annual marvel by holding blossom viewing parties. It’s part of a culture which reverences nature by going out and actively celebrating it – moon gazing, listening to mountain streams and viewing flowers.

Springtime brings the most intense experience. A wave of cherry blossom festivals sweeps the islands of Japan starting in the south and following the sun northwards over two or three months. Picnics under the trees can be raucous and lively (older people often prefer more sedate plum blossom viewings), but winter is over and the sap is rising.

Underneath the joy there is, of course, a poignancy. It’s not as simple as reminding us that – like our lives – the blossoms’ beauty is brief and all too quickly ended, it’s also the sense that there could be no better time to leave than when the world around you is at its most lovely. Back in the 12th Century Saigyo famously wrote:

I wish to die in spring
beneath the cherry blossoms
while the springtime moon is full

Of course the connection between the cherry blossom and time’s passing can be found much closer to home too. This from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

How nice to imagine the time when you thought you had fifty blossom season’s more.


  1. Charles

    We think as one, dear Vale: I was just revelling in that slice of Housman this very morning.

    i was invited to Hokkaido in the Cherry Blossom season one year, but I chickened out as my father had recently died and my host would have been in his office all day . . . I had visions of sitting, lonely and damp, on various park benches. Wishing ow that I’d had more pluck.

  2. Charles

    Pure delight – thanks. I’m off outside into the garden. The leaves are breaking and the primroses are everywhere out.

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