Yoshiko cherry trees in bloom, University of Washington campus

A Prayer in Spring
by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. . . .

Finally!  The cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the University of Washington.  I took these photos on the Quad this morning:

The floating world; upside down reflections in a rain puddle

Some people travel all the way to Japan to view cherry blossoms, but we in Seattle are fortunate to be able to experience hanami in our own city.  Another way to see them is via books.  I saw this book of Japanese prints with cherry blossoms at the library:

Cherry Blossoms by Freer/Sackler Smithsonian Museums

 

“Viewing Cherry Blossoms,” attributed to Katsushika Hokusai

 

“Snow, Moon, and Flowers,” by Takahashi Shotei

 

“Avenue of Cherry Trees,” by Yoshida Hiroshi

 

“Spring in Mount Atago,” by Kawase Hasui

 

“Spring at Kintai Bridge,” by Kawase Hasui

 

“A Courtesan Under a Cherry Tree,” by Katsushika Hokusai

 

“Crow Perched on a Flowering Cherry Branch and Full Moon,” by Ohara Kosan

“What a strange thing!
To be alive
Beneath cherry blossoms.”
— Kobayashi Issa

My watercolor sketch of cherry blossoms

 

 

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Sandhill crane migration, Nebraska

The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska
by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love

Too bad you weren’t here six months ago,
was a lament I heard on my visit to Nebraska.
You could have seen the astonishing spectacle
of the sandhill cranes, thousands of them
feeding and even dancing on the shores of the Platte River.

There was no point in pointing out
the impossibility of my being there then
because I happened to be somewhere else,
so I nodded and put on a look of mild disappointment
if only to be part of the commiseration.

It was the same look I remember wearing
about six months ago in Georgia
when I was told that I had just missed
the spectacular annual outburst of azaleas,
brilliant against the green backdrop of spring

and the same in Vermont six months before that
when I arrived shortly after
the magnificent foliage had gloriously peaked,
Mother Nature, as she is called,
having touched the hills with her many-colored brush,

a phenomenon that occurs, like the others,
around the same time every year when I am apparently off
in another state, stuck in a motel lobby
with the local paper and a styrofoam cup of coffee,
busily missing God knows what.

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Sandhill cranes in Nebraska, flying above the Platte River

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Sandhill crane

Last year at this time I was journeying to the Platte River in Nebraska to see the migrating flocks of sandhill cranes feeding for their long journey north.  I am so glad that I made the effort to witness this migration at least once in my life.  Natural phenomena like the sandhill crane migration are a mystery and a wonder and bring to new life a word like awesome.

I don’t always make the time to seek out these great spectacles of nature.  It’s not just a matter of limited time, but of financial considerations and prioritizing this type of travel.  This winter, for example, I did not drive north even once to see the flocks of snow geese over-wintering in the Skagit valley.  I have seen them several times in the past, but it is my loss not to have seen them this year.

As the seasons cycle, we have many chances to stop and enjoy Nature’s unique offerings.  We can take the time to notice, or we can get wrapped up in other things and miss out.  The words of Billy Collins’ poem point this out.  Missing out happens with regrettable regularity.

Spring seems to bring a succession of opportunities in my immediate local environment.  Just now the Yoshino cherry trees are blossoming on the University of Washington campus.  I did make the effort to see them once again.  How lucky I am to be able to do this!

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Cherry trees on the quad at the U of W campus

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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

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Another blossoming tree on the U of W campus

Another blossoming tree on the U of W campus

 

 

It's cherry blossom viewing time on the UW campus, Seattle.

It’s cherry blossom viewing time on the UW campus, Seattle.

Sunshine + cherry blossoms = springtime spectacle

Sunshine + cherry blossoms = springtime spectacle

“Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bow.”
— William Shakespeare

A few days of sunshine have popped the buds on the cherry trees on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.  The trees are in their glory, all blushing white.

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How fortunate we are to have these lovely cherry trees in Seattle.  The other Washington (D.C.) celebrated its cherry blossom festival’s 100th anniversary last year.  I still have a few commemorative stamps left over.  I’ll have to use them on the letters I write this month.

Commemorative Stamps of cherry trees in Washington, D.C.

Commemorative Stamps of cherry trees in Washington, D.C.

Last week the Yoshino cherry trees on the UW campus were just starting to bud

Last week the Yoshino cherry trees on the UW campus were just starting to bud

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Each spring we have our own cherry blossom viewing opportunity in Seattle.  Among the best places to view the spectacle is the Quad on the University of Washington campus.  Last week when I went, the trees were in bud, and I could see that the peak of cherry blossom time was just days away.  A few blossoms were open in clusters on the bark of the trees.  One tree, situated over a warm air vent, even sported branches in full blossom.

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It’s so interesting to see blossoms sprouting directly from the bark of these Yoshino cherry trees.

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Buds in readiness to blossom

Buds in readiness to blossom

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In another week, all of the trees will display profuse blossoms like these early ones.

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