Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sakura in Steveston

Did you know that Richmond has a sister city in Japan?

If you have ever strolled through Steveston in early spring, you would know why.

Rows of cherry blossom trees seem to simultaneously erupt into frothy pinks or whites – in public parks, private yards, and along the streets.

Trees in the Steveston Community Centre parking lot

Trees leading up to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery

It is glorious to watch the branches burst into life, then stoop under the weight of densely packed blossoms, and within weeks, scatter their airy mantle to the winds.

The cherry blossom, or sakura, is Japan's national flower and its arrival heralds not only the coming of spring but the start of the school year. So seriously do the Japanese take the blooming period that weather forecasts include reports on the blossom season as it sweeps across the country. People eat, drink, and - no doubt - fall in love under the cherry blossom trees. For extreme sakura worshippers, viewing cherry blossoms - in daylight and moonlight - is a cherished past time. I know this is true because, like you, I have seen "Memoirs of a Geisha”

Do you catch your breath at the sight of pink and white petals being fanned off a tree, engaging in their swan dance mid-air, and fluttering in wide sweeping arcs down to the ground? It kind of reminds me of a spring snowfall – but without the wet hair, soggy socks, and squeaky sneakers.

This majestic display can be interpreted in many different ways. The Japanese view the fragility and fleeting presence of the cherry blossoms as symbolic of the human existence. The flash of brilliance that is soon extinguished parallels the limited time that encompasses the rise and fall of our lives. No wonder then, that the richly symbolic sakura has inspired many poetic souls and found expression in their arts.

*Cherry blossom poem:

"If only I could
divide myself,
not miss a single tree
see the blossoms at their best
on all ten thousand mountains!"
-Saigyō Hōshi(1118 – 1190), a Japanese Buddhist priest-poet

*Cherry blossom art:

-Katsushika Hokusai c.1834 "Goldfinch and Cherry Tree"

*Cherry blossom music:

*Cherry blossom movie:

-scene from "Memoirs of a Geisha"

So, before the cherry blossoms disperse and disappear from Steveston for another year, let's get out there and get utterly lost in their beauty.

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