It’s cherry blossom time here in my neck of the woods. Last weekend was the peak weekend for our annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Having lived in this area for a number of years, I think my family and I have become a little bit jaded toward the whole blossom explosion. Truly, it is gorgeous, but there are flowering trees everywhere around here. When you see them constantly on your daily drives — and even have one in your front yard — it all starts to be a bit “ho-hum”. Cherry Blossom Festival time stops being something exciting and new and becomes nothing more than a pain in the hoo-hah because of all the tourists flooding the area.
This year, for the first time in about eight or nine years, my family and I decided to go into town to see the trees in full bloom. We planned our outing carefully, deciding to get up early so that we could avoid the crowds and get some nice photos with the just-past-sunrise light.
This was a fantastic plan, and I went to bed the night before eagerly anticipating all the amazing photos I would manage to capture. I had visions of deserted sidewalks and softly pinkish-orange light on calm water, which would, of course, give all my photographs a fairy-tale quality that would shock and amaze anyone looking at them. What can I say? I have a vivid imagination. Too bad I can’t manage to use my powers for good.
Our plan wasn’t easy to implement. I think I have mentioned this before, but I am not a morning person. Let me emphasize: Not A Morning Person. At all. So rolling out of bed before 6:30 in the AM took what can only be described as a Herculean effort on my part. But, I told myself, it would be oh-so-worth it when I was at home later in the afternoon, smugly gloating over my incredibly beautiful photographs.
So, you can imagine my dismay when we got into town only to discover that EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE FREAKING UNIVERSE (!!!), apparently, had the exact same early morning cherry blossom attack plan. There were people everywhere — at 7:00 in the blessed AM, even! I couldn’t believe it, and I felt my dreams of gorgeous pictures fizzle right before my eyes. I think I heard them make a sad, little popping sound as they imploded with my first view of the crowds thronging toward our destination.
I mean, really! Didn’t they all know I’m not a morning person? Didn’t they all realize I had gotten up super early and made a special trip into town just to see the cherry trees and get beautiful pictures of deserted sidewalks and pink-orange light on the calm waters? Yeah … apparently, none of them got the memo. Thanks a lot, Universe.
It ended up being a nice walk and a lovely morning. And I got to see much more than I had bargained for when we originally planned this excursion. Sure, deserted sidewalks strewn with fallen cherry petals and the soft light of sunrise on a calm river are beautiful. But they can’t hold a candle to the actual sights and sounds we encountered on our cherry blossom outing.
A funny thing happens when you toss bunches of people together into a small space: Humanity, in all its whacked-out, weirdly beautiful glory. We saw a slice of all of it during our stroll along the river and under the beautifully blooming trees. From the Honor Guard at the memorials … to a little dog wearing a coat and sauntering down the sidewalk like a Boss … to happy couples so in love and taking their engagement photos … to people in traditional Japanese dress, who looked right at home amongst the petals as they drifted to the ground on the gentle breeze … to brides in their veils and white dresses … and, yes, even the pregnant lady sitting on the side of the river taking “pregnant belly” photos, which, I have to admit, made me feel awkward and uncomfortable — mainly because the lighting was all wrong, and I just know those photos are going to be terrible … there was a little bit of everything on display. People were letting it all hang out, as people are wont to do, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and, probably, celebrating the demise of a winter that seemed to drag on for way too long this year.
I felt my spirits lift, just being among them. The carnival atmosphere was contagious and made me happy to be alive and outside enjoying the sunrise and beautiful morning. And I thought to myself: “Yep … It was worth it.”
No deserted sidewalks. No artfully strewn cherry blossom petals. No hushed quiet of the breeze through the trees. No sunrise on calm waters. Just a cacophony of sounds, sights, colors, and crazy, crazy people at every twist and turn. And I wouldn’t have changed a single thing.