Any plans for a “hanami” anytime soon? Maybe the first question should be, do you have any cherry blossom trees in your town? If so, how about taking a walk to your local park where these trees are bursting with flowers right about now. A “hanami” is the Japanese practice of picnicking under a blooming cherry blossom tree. Ideally, you’d want to pack a lunch or dinner and enjoy some sake with it but there’s no need to stand on ceremony. The point is to create a “be here now” moment and to celebrate the beauty of these trees.
I’m stuck on cherry blossoms these days. Every year I eagerly await their arrival and go out of my to way to walk down blocks where I know they’re blooming. Last Sunday’s New York Times travel section featured articles on walking. Did you happen to read it? The main feature highlighted strolls through some of Europe’s best cities: London, Tuscany, Istanbul, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Scotland, Berlin and Switzerland. What does this have to do with cherry blossoms? Well, after reading about these walks, it got me itching to go somewhere. I couldn’t exactly hop a flight but I already live in a great walking city, so I put on my comfy shoes, grabbed my camera, and set out for a ramble to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where cherry blossoms are the star attraction right now. These trees are common throughout Brooklyn neighborhoods and while their season is spectacular, it’s short-lived so I got a move on. With pale seashell colored blooms that burst from dark pink buds to wedding white flowers, to others that pop double-blossoms of magenta, my plan was to overdose on these beauties.
There are lots of tourists here today and I realize, oddly enough, that they’ve probably built this “walk” into their travel itineraries. On weekends, people from diverse cultures arrive like lemmings to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and in a span of 10 seconds you could easily eavesdrop on five different languages. Young couples with their in-laws, families out to enjoy a perfect Spring day after what seemed like a never-ending winter, parents with newborns, or friends with out-of-town visitors. Wherever they’re from, everyone seems to delight in their appreciation of cherry blossoms. This garden has 27 varieties and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which type is my favorite. I just take my time and soak up the good vibrations they seem to generate. This place will really be packed this weekend when Sakura Matsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrates traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.
As much as I’d love to travel to Japan to see these trees, the inspiration to stroll in my own city has satisfied me. On the walk back, cherry blossom petals fall like snow in the front yards of private homes and along the sidewalks. Two trees on my block have plump pink buds just beginning to flower. I’ll revisit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on a weekday, when it’s more quiet, and enjoy my own hanami . Right now, I’m quite content to appreciate their beauty from my stoop, in my own neck of the woods. If you don’t have the time or money for a trip right now, take a stroll and see what’s blooming in your town. Some of the most interesting and enjoyable pleasures might just be a short walk from home. Enjoy!