Cherry blossoms

“The bud is on the bough again,
The leaf is on the tree.”
— Charles Jeffreys, The Meeting of Spring and Summer

This year, for the first time, I noticed something about the blossoming cherry trees.  When the blossoms first appear, there are still no leaves on the trees!

Cherry tree at Green Lake

I discovered this when I contemplated painting cherry trees, and because I find it difficult to paint white things, I looked for green leaves to break up the massive sea of white.  But I looked in vain.  There were no leaves to be seen.  I thought that was odd, since I had never remarked upon the bareness of the trees once the blossoms fell.  I was determined to watch and see when the leaves would appear.

In the second week of bloom, I saw tiny tree leaves start to appear any the ends off the branches.  Over the next week, they leaves grew substantially.

I now see that when the cherry trees lose all their blossoms, they will be clothed in new green leaves.  Spring is rushing ahead.

Fallen cherry blossoms


Yoshino cherry trees in bloom on the University of Washington campus

Yoshino cherry trees in bloom on the University of Washington campus

“Since every variety of tree and plant comes into bloom in its own time in one of the four seasons, we prize the timeliness and rarity of the blooming of each. . . . Now what we call hana or ‘flowering,’ what we call ‘interesting,’ and what we call ‘rarity’ are not three separate things but really one and the same.  But all flowers eventually are scattered, none stays in bloom.  And it is precisely because it blooms and perishes that a flower holds our interest as something rare. . . . to know the flowering is first of all to know that nothing abides.”
— Zeami, from Kadensho, translated by William LaFleur

“Death is the mother of Beauty.”
— Wallace Stevens

Mother and child, cherry blossom viewing

Mother and child, cherry blossom viewing

Cherry blossom viewing carries with it a Japanese sensibility, the awareness of the ephemeral.  It is heartening to see such a diverse group of people enjoying the magnificent blooming cherry trees on the University of Washington campus.  These Yoshino cherry trees are a natural wonder.

The Quad at the University of Washington

The Quad at the University of Washington

Blossoms shimmer in the sunlight

Blossoms shimmer in the sunlight

Gnarly bark

Gnarly bark

Photographing a fallen blossom

Photographing a fallen blossom






Another blossoming tree on the U of W campus

Another blossoming tree on the U of W campus



Hanami means “flower viewing” in Japanese, but it has come to be associated with the appreciating the annual blossoming of Japan’s famous cherry trees.  In the next week or so, we will have the opportunity to experience hanami in Seattle when the Yoshino cherry trees burst into blossom on the quad at the University of Washington campus.  I visited the campus this week, and while a there were just a few trees starting to blossom, most were still holding back.

Dangling clusters of cherry buds almost ready to burst into bloom, UW campus

The Yoshino cherry trees form dense clusters of buds

It's still early for cherry blossom viewing, but this photographer was seeking out pleasing shots.

A few trees were starting to bloom

Lovely subtle pinks and whites

Mixed blossoms and buds

Buds sprout from the scars of the trees' bark

Just one more photo

“Spring is always poignant because nothing stays.  It must be caught and appreciated on the wing, for soon it will be gone.”
— May Sarton, The House by the Sea: A Journal

Pinkish blossoms of the purpleleaf cherry plum tree

Photo taken just a week ago

And a week later, a profusion of blossoms

A common sight on Seattle streets right now

This is the time of year when Seattle streets are lined with flowering ornamental cherry trees.  The blooming trees are the glory of our neighborhoods.  But March is a windy month, too, and the sight of these trees is all the more poignant knowing that this all this beauty will soon pass.

“March is a good word for the first month of spring, because once it gets going, it’s steady, ever faster, breathtaking in its timetable of joy.”
— Rebecca Otowa, At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery

Sakura in Seattle

April 11, 2011

Cascading cherry blossoms

Our cool, gray Seattle spring is prolonging the cherry blossom season here.  Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are so lovely this year. 

Garr Reynolds, one of the bloggers I follow at Presentation Zen, recently wrote about the cherry blossoms in Japan, where he is living (you can link to his blog here:  He writes about the symbolism of the short-lived blossoms, and finding the lesson in nature that ” life is precious and short and must not be wasted.”  Sakura also symbolize “starting a new chapter in life or of starting over with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.”

Mr. Reynolds has close ties with Japan, and I found one of his earlier posts about the resilience of the Japanese one of the best things I’ve read about the recent earthquake, tsunami, and its aftermath.  You can read his post by linking here:

 I think about his words as I enjoy our cherry blossom season in Seattle.

Cherry blossoms after rain

Buds, blossoms, and raindrops

Catching the last rays of the sun, cherry blossoms at dusk at the University of Washington

Yoshina cherry trees in blossom on the University of Washington campus

While we were away in Texas, spring was slowly advancing in chillier Seattle.  The day after our return, I stopped by the UW campus to see if the cherry trees were in bloom.  Just a few branches sported blossoms.

Less than a week ago, we were still waiting for the cherry trees to blossom.

Yesterday I returned to the UW campus.  What a difference a few days make!  The Quad was now lined with cherry trees in full blossom.  It was well worth a second visit to see such a beautiful sight.

Cherry trees in blossom at the University of Washington campus

On the Quad at the University of Washington

Some of the cherry blossoms grow in clusters from the bark.

A cluster of cherry blossoms

Families visit the University of Washington campus to view the cherry blossoms.

A photographer zooms in on some cherry blossoms.

As I wander under the cherry trees, I cannot help but think of Japan and the haunting beauty of its traditional cherry blossoms amidst all of the devastation from the recent earthquake and tsunami.  The fleeting beauty is a metaphor for life.

“The enduring and poignant (wabi-sabi) power of this image of the cherry blossom comes from our ever-present awareness of the ephemerality of it all.  A moment before there were no blossoms.  A moment hence there will be no blossoms . . .”
     — Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artisits, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Cherry Blossom Viewing

March 5, 2010

Cherry trees in bloom on the University of Washington campus

The cherry trees on the quad at the University of Washington have just come into blossom.  They are Yoshina cherry trees, planted on campus in 1964.  My daughter, who is a student at the UW, called me to let me know that the trees have bloomed.  I expect that more blossoms will pop later in the week.  They are early this year.

Cherry blossom viewing, called hanami, has been a Japanese custom for centuries.  I feel fortunate that we can celebrate this traditional rite of spring in Seattle, too.

Lantern and cherry blossoms

On the quad at the UW campus

View of the quad from a classroom window

The first blossoms of the Yoshina cherry; many clusters still unopened

On the Streets Where I Live

February 28, 2010

Flowering plum and cherry trees line many Seattle residential streets, providing a beautiful colonnade on my walks and drives.  The full-blossomed trees remind me of the color of the black raspberry ice cream cones we would buy at the dairy bar in my hometown.

Down the street near my home


Trees in full blossom

Flowering cherry tree

View through my car window

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”
      — John Burroughs

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

The cherry trees in bloom on the University of Washington campus (from 2007)

The cherry trees in bloom on the University of Washington campus (from 2007)

I live in a city, not the countryside, so I mostly look at things in bloom in an urban setting.  The yearly cherry blossom extravaganza on the University of Washington campus is spectacular.  I went this year, but missed the peak by a few days.   

We are gifted a finite number of Springs.  And we never know if this Spring will be our last.  So … notice.  Pay attention. Give thanks.  And revel in the glorious blooms and blossoms that are Spring’s fleeting face.

“Loveliest of Trees”
by A. E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.