Nashville’s cherry trees seem more spectacular than ever to me this year. Maybe that’s because I’ve been paying attention to them more than I used to. There’s something particularly poignant this spring about those clouds of white-blushing-pink, a botanical legacy of Japan.
This week NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story–Japan’s Cherry Blossoms in Brief, Beautiful Bloom–just as D.C.’s cherry trees spring into profuse flower. Thousands of those trees were gifts from Japan, a place where artistic expressions of nature–in formal gardens, paintings, and poetry–seem to transcend the earthly realm.
The radio piece speaks of cherry blossoms as symbols of life’s ephemeral nature, a reminder of the transience of flowers and seasons, and of cities and loved ones, disappeared beneath the waves. The story then shifts to a D.C. exhibition of Japanese folding screens at the Freer Gallery. The screens featuring Matsushima Bay are lovely and heartbreaking. It’s just north of Sendai, a city ravaged by the recent tsunami…and not for the first time. This 400-year-old screen depicts a torrent of water swallowing cliffs and trees at Matsushima:
Curator James Ulak finds comfort in these depictions of villages and landscapes that the sea and earth have seen fit to transform, even erase. “We are fortunate … to have this kind of a memory of the place,” he tells NPR. “It will return…but never in the same way. So the lesson of the cherry blossom is very much in evidence here.”