Day # 69: Air – “Cherry Blossom Girl” (video by Tikititaah)
Yesterday marked the first day of DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival. Those trees are all over the U.S., but the cherry blossoms are quite a big deal around here. People plan entire vacations around seeing them. And this year is especially significant because it’s the Centennial Celebration of the first trees that were planted. The they were donated by the mayor of Tokyo City back in 1912 to symbolize ties between Japan and the U.S. The first two of what would be more than 4,000 trees gifted to the U.S. over the years were planted down on the tidal basin by First Lady Helen Taft and Vicountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador. It wasn’t the first time the trees were planted. They were actually donated to the U.S. after an initial donation of 2,000 trees in 1910 died from disease.
Phil’s parents hadn’t seen the cherry blossoms before, and in seven years here, I’d never bothered going down to the tidal basin to see them either. With some time off for the next few days, I figured now was as good as a time as any. In fact, there was worry that we might not see anything. That’s the thing about festivals and vacations planned around nature. With spring fully sprung earlier than usual, so were the trees. And then it became the test of time – one big rainstorm or terribly windy day could just ruin everything! Or so, that was the thinking around here.
Funny how important these trees are to our spring tourism industry, considering angry ax-wielding mobs took their swings (sometimes successfully) at the national treasure back in the 40s out of retaliation for Pearl Harbor and, just simply, because we were at war with Japan. Those are the same people that today decide to thumb noses at other nations by momentarily renaming French Fries as Freedom Fries. I can’t find the Jeannie Moos mini-documentary about the cherry blossoms that once upon a time aired on CNN, but supposedly, even in the face of public opposition to widespread ruination of the cherry trees, FDR put out the orders to have the job done at night when hardly anyone would notice. For some reason, that was never carried out. Maybe some jerk looked at them and had a change of heart, like the way a person might if they’ve been given orders to kill a puppy. Because the trees really are quite a beautiful sight. The pale pink puffs lining the tidal basin.
But of course, fighting people traffic to get out there and see them is not quite as appealing, and there tends to be quite a lot of people traffic during the festival days (March 20 – April 27). The thought of spending an hour looking for a parking space, or waiting out metro trains just to find standing room gives me a stress twitch, so I prefer to avoid all that when I can. Still, I was determined to see these cherry blossoms everyone has been raving about once and for all! But how?!
Ah yes… the National Arboretum. I totally love the Arboretum. It’s free, and the grounds are gigantic, and there’s a ton of nice scenery. Plus, it’s a lot easier to get to from Greenbelt. Though, it’s in a rather unlikely neighborhood in DC. Just off the Baltimore Parkway and hidden from the barrage of fast food chains and hotels and gas stations. I only found it by accident one time while driving out to the H Street neighborhood. There it was, tucked away on a residential street. I bet it would be cool to live right next to the Arboretum. There’s all this space to go running (if you’re into that sort of thing) and bike riding and walking dogs and admiring plants. Or, it’d probably is cool if you’re not madly allergic to pollen and the like. Then the neighborhood must be pure hell.
Former columns of the Capitol.
Phil’s parent’s hadn’t been to the National Arboretum before, which made me a great tour guide because I was showing them two new things, even though we were there because I didn’t want to deal with the headache of going downtown to show them what everyone’s been talking about. The trees on the Tidal Basin. With the whole gorgeous view of the Potomac and the Lincoln Memorial and everything. The National Arboretum expected that, though. And their “Beyond the Tidal Basin” program wasn’t about to disappoint. They had plenty of varieties of cherry blossoms in full view, just waiting to be admired.
Actually, we spent the day admiring a lot of Japanese agriculture. The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is out there, and that in itself is pretty interesting. Some of those carefully pruned little trees are more than 200 years old. That’s where we started (because it’s a close walk from the parking lot) before hopping in the car and driving around the Arboretum grounds to get our fix of cherry blossoms. Too bad we didn’t have nicer weather for the occasion. (We also took in some Japanese-inspired architecture with a stop by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House down in Virginia).
Do you see the dragon?
You’re probably thinking… bonzai, bonzai, bonzai… STONE?! But look harder, Simba!