In Japan right now, families should be enjoying the sakura zensen, the “cherry blossom front” that sweeps northward from Okinawa to Hokkaido from January through early April. Throughout the spring, families and friends celebrate Hanami, picnics shared beneath the luminous pink-and-white canopies of blooming ornamental cherry.
Instead, this springtime in Japan brings unimaginable calamity. As with Paris in 1940, New Orleans in 2005, and Sendai today, as we look to distant cataclysms, our differences disappear. We are all Japanese this week.
I have never been there. But when I step into my backyard, I often feel the breath of the place: suggestions of its landscape have found their way here, in the lacelike foliage of acer palmatum, as fragile as dessicated butterfly wings, and the exotic pale greens of broad hosta leaves, shining with raindrops.
I feel helpless before the Japanese tragedy; the only action I know is to send money (text 90999 to donate to the Red Cross) and to offer this small tribute to that nation’s cultural legacy of transcendent botanical beauty.