May 4, 2008

"Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, at the moon only when it is cloudless?"

Wrote Yoshida Kenkô in one of my favorite books "Essays in Idleness."
"To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring—these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration."
I found the quote in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in an article on Japanese Aesthetics.

Cherry petals

I'm not saying my attitude was anything Japanese —
The blossoms of the Japanese cherry trees are intrinsically no more beautiful than those of, say, the pear or the apple tree: they are more highly valued because of their transience, since they usually begin to fall within a week of their first appearing. It is precisely the evanescence of their beauty that evokes the wistful feeling of mono no aware in the viewer.
— but we paused among the fallen petals yesterday in Brooklyn:

Cherry petals

The branches of that cherry tree are seen in the upper right corner of this photograph, taken at the end of March, before there were any blooms.

WWII Monument

This large, intransient monument is in Cadman Plaza. You can read the inscription on it here.


Tom said...

Wow! you have to love those red socks ...

rhhardin said...

Cherry blossoms are the American Idol of flowers. It's typical that the Japanese like them.

A flower that you notice only once every few years, on some roadside : that's a real flower.

I haven't seen a Star of Bethlehem in a while, for instance. I've only seen the one.

George said...

Whaddya know—Brooklyn, death, anesthesia, Japan, flowers, and philosophy all in one internet.

Lady, you put some baseball in dis and you might be onto something.

JohnAnnArbor said...

rhhardin, remember that the Empire of Japan gave us the famous cherry trees in Washington, sometime before the first world war.

Bissage said...

Well, I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking and I still can’t come up with a comment good enough for that photo of Althouse holding the cherry petals, it’s so lovely.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the significance of beauty and become speechless.

Trooper York said...
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Chip Ahoy said...

Did you nick that branch for a go at your own ikebana? Should have got one with buds.

That am a lovely portrait, the one with the scooped pedals, whoever took it. Congratulations.

>photography notation<
Some cameras (like my entry-level EasyShare) have a back light option that works things out in that situation. They also make polarizing filters. Both options would reduce the glare from the sidewalk, and are fun to play with. Also, using my mad Photoshop®™skilz, I could carefully isolate that area and increase contrast ever so slightly.
>/photography notation<

But all of this reminds me of my mostest favoritestest haiku of all time:

My barn burned down.
Now I can see the moon.

Now if you're counting syllables and declaring that's not a proper haiku, it's translated from Japanese and they're altogether different. ← + ↑ 100% of fact.

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...


Does that mean it will last forever?

Chip Ahoy said...


The real deal

Tons of versions including sung, on YouTube. flute, piano, guitar, etc. Must include "folk song" in search or else you get the cartoon.

To sing along, and who doesn't?

sa ku ra sa ku ra ya yo i no so ra ---wa
mi wa ta su ka gi --ri ... ka su mi ka ku mo --ka
ni o i zo i zu --ru ... i za ya i za ya
mi ni yu -- ka n

And all of that means:

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
On Meadow-hills and dale,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the morning sun.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Flowers in full bloom.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the Spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come,
Let’s look, at last!

Apart from tradition
and quite nice.

Chip Ahoy said...

Remember that the Empire of Japan gave us the famous cherry trees in Washington

American customs agents declared that the trees were infested with insects and could not be planted for fear of infecting American agriculture. President Taft was forced to order all the trees burned, creating quite a diplomatic quagmire ...

[Emotion, really, but they got over themselves. I mean nobody ever made a fuss about Johnny Appleseed and his invasive species.

These blossoms are lovely, but the thing I want to know is who gets the cherries? Can you go around and pick 'em? Grandmother had a cherry tree in her back yard. Dear ol' Dad planted every kind of fruit tree he could. I'll long remember climbing those trees with my older brother and eating plums, apples, pears and cherries, our favorite, right off the branches. That was in Bethlehem Pennsylvania and this tells me it's possible and I don't understand why everybody doesn't do it.]

... In 1965, the Japanese sent more trees to Washington. In return, Washington has continuously provided Japan with cuttings from the original stock of trees. The cuttings are grafted onto old trees in Tokyo to maintain the lineage of the stock.

Japanese are also real big on peach trees. Comes from tradition, a story about Peach Boy.

vbspurs said...

A haiku in honour of Ann's Day Off:

the falling of blossoms
a glamourous blogger
the sound of typing.


Chip Ahoy said...


In 1862 the Mexican trade ship Escambia was fully lade. Cargo included a large shipment from Hellman's warehouses in New York headed to Tampiko Mexico. It was the first ever trade shipment of this particular kind between the two countries and it was hoped it would open up new markets for both countries. Having completed the dangerous journey in unusually rough waters, the weather worsened just as they were preparing to unload the ship. The battered ship floundered in relatively shallow water just outside the harbor but the entire perishable shipment was lost. Ever since that tragic day the event has been memorialized as "Cinco de Mayo"

Ann Althouse said...

I found the branch on the ground.

rhhardin said...

real deal
Cherry Blossoms Lane Yoshikazu Mera (real audio)

reader_iam said...

I found the branch on the ground.

Well, thank goodness.

vbspurs said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...

I found the branch on the ground.

Oh, how queer.

Earlier, when I read this reply, I could've sworn I had read "Christopher Cohen Althouse says", saying that bit about having found the branch.

I was going to tease Chris by replying something witty about him being a "chip" off the old block, or the apple not falling from the tree (an allusion to his famous blogger mother, obviously).

I check the thread now, and it says Ann wrote it.

I really must cut down on the wine gums.


Trooper York said...
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Eli Blake said...

Dang, though. Those red socks with black shoes really do jump out, surrounded by (and standing upon) the pink blossoms).

And I don't think I've ever been guilty of commenting on anything that Ann's been wearing, but I have to agree with Tom here, the contrast is striking and it's impossible to not notice.