Yo no naka wa, mikka minu ma ni sakura kana
(Life is short, like the three-day glory of the cherry blossom)
Nature has much to teach us, if we will surround ourselves in it and take time to observe. This Japanese proverb has great meaning for us and supports the timing of this adventure.
The significance of the cherry blossoms begins prior to the 8th century AD, when the Japanese celebrated the fertility of the earth with prayers under the blossoms. The Japanese Cherry Tree (prunus serrulata) blooms earlier than most flowering plants, being among the first to signal the arrival of spring and a renewing of life. According to Japanese tradition, the blossoms are best appreciated when seen near reflective bodies of water, making the Washington, DC, Tidal Basin and Potomac Park appropriate placement for the trees.
The festival in Washington, DC, in celebration of the blooming of the trees is also entitled "The Gift of the Trees," in recognition of the Japanese government giving 3,000 trees to the United States. The blossoms not only bring Americans to their Capital, but many Japanese tourists visit Washington to surround themselves in the glory of this gift.
The first trees were planted on March 27, 1912. The earliest full bloom, with one exception, was March 27th. So, our only planned date for being in a specific location on this year-long-plus adventure was March 27th. The anchor was dropped in the Washington Channel on March 27, 2011, at 7:30 pm, with the cherry trees beginning their display along the Potomac Park wall. The blooms create a different and enhanced view of the Capital and the many monuments and buildings.
Photography cannot relate the impact created by 10,000 trees blooming, each with 10,000 blooms. It is truly awe inspiring.
Many depictions of the cherry blossoms portray them as pink. The vast majority of the trees have white blossoms, with only a small amount of pink in the center. There are some pink blossoming trees, which are a few days later in blooming, but even they are not totally pink.
That is, with a singular exception. In the Moon Garden, behind the Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian Museum displaying Oriental art, there is a lone tree, much different than all the others in the city.
This tree does not have the upright structure of the traditional Japanese Cherry Tree; it has an umbrella-like drooping similar to a Weeping Willow, and pink blossoms (prunus subhirtella var. pendula).