What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms.
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to find yourself standing in the middle of a shower of cherry blossom petals then you will appreciate this quote by Kobayashi Issa, a Japanese poet regarded as one of the haiku masters.
Of course, cherry blossoms are intricately associated with Japan. In Japanese culture the cherry blossom represents the fragile beauty of life – while life is filled with so much that is exquisite it is also tragically short. The short cherry blossom season is culturally a time for the Japanese to reflect on the precarious nature of life.
I’ve been fortunate to be in Japan during the cherry blossom season – and most particularly in Kyoto – my favourite city in the world. The blossom trees are celebrated and it seems as though everyone is out to picnic under the trees or simply to wander and admire. In this world of rushing and not appreciating, it is wonderful to see this spectacle of nature so universally embraced and revered.
Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.
And now I find myself in Victoria on Vancouver Island – another part of the world where the cherry blossoms are an integral part of the city’s fabric. Although certainly not celebrated to the extent that they are in Japan (we don’t seem to be a culture that slows down for anything) I enjoy nothing more than wandering through the streets and gardens and simply soaking in the extraordinary beauty of the season.
After a long Canadian winter the blooming of the cherry blossoms is like a reminder from the universe that dark days will not last forever. The wheel turns and once again we come to life. They herald the exuberance of spring and the emergence of life. And just as quickly they are gone in a whirlwind of petals.
For me, it is a time to slow down and contemplate the delicate loveliness of this gift from nature. I’ve always been enchanted by them – to me the world seems quite magical when they are in flower. It’s almost impossible to contain and understand the beauty in front of my eyes.
You’ll see cherry blossoms everywhere in Victoria – many downtown streets are lined with them.
One neighbourhood that’s particularly worth checking out is James Bay – right near the downtown core. Here you can enjoy cherry blossom lined streets as well as the area’s gorgeous heritage architecture.
Adjacent to James Bay is Beacon Hill Park – the city’s main green space. Always a lovely spot to wander and watch the local birdlife, in March it offers a spectacle of blossom trees and daffodils.
Of course, Victoria is a city known for its gardens. The most famous of these is, without a doubt, Butchart Gardens and cherry blossom season is the perfect time to visit with daffodils, crocus and hyacinths also in bloom. The gardens are located on the Saanich peninsula, not too far from the ferry terminal.
In the same area is the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific. The garden here is maintained by volunteers and for garden lovers is not only a feast for the senses but also a good spot to buy plants and learn about all things horticultural. The Japanese garden alone is worth the admission fee (in my opinion!). Sit a while and reflect on the impermanence of all things as you watch blossom petals float from the sky and drift down the meandering stream, as it passes by stone lanterns and below ornate bridges.
Cherry blossom season has passed for another year and we are now in the full bloom of summer. As the last of the petals falls gently to the ground I always feel a sense of wistfulness. But then, so much of the joy of this brief season is contained in the awareness that it will be over too soon. Just like life.
Where’s your favourite spot to see cherry blossoms?
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