Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cherry Blossom Time

I’ve seen so many Japanese paintings and prints of cherry blossoms that I’m not surprised the Japanese gave the US so many cherry trees to plant in Washington, DC. The tiny blossom of the cherry tree is easy to take for granted. There’s a tree in my front yard. First, bare twigs. Next, a little swelling at nodules on the branches. The red nodules on one branch open into palest pink crepe 5-petaled blossoms. In the center of each is a crown of pistils surrounded by a starburst of taller stamens. Girls in the middle and boys (the pollen producers, for plants) around the outside. How many dances looked like that? More and more blossoms open until the tree is a cloud of light pink. This stage is the peak experience. I pick up one blossom drifting across the grass and put it on my dashboard. I look out over the green lawn with restless pink dots. I drive off into the sun. The sun shines through the flower, emphasizing the concave shaping and the crepe-like texture of each petal. I think I could never capture that image, which lives so clearly in my brain, by drawing or painting. The next day, I find one flattened so that the red sepals form triangles supporting the petals. I put that on my dashboard too. The first one is shriveled, but it still lives in my mind’s eye. The tree is now producing red leaves, first tiny, then larger. Soon there will be no flowers and the tree will flame in fresh beet-red leaves. They’ll grow tarnished and brown through the summer and drop off in late fall. I am glad to be able to see this tree year-round.

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