One of the very first things that Zach and I did when we moved to Crown Heights was invest in a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’d never visited the gardens before moving to this side of Prospect Park, symptoms nor did I ever consider myself the kind of person who would wander aimlessly under the canopy of trees. Boy, was I wrong.

Every year now, I can hardly contain myself as I wait for the glorious display of cherry blossoms. This year, I started checking the CherryWatch page in mid-March, hoping for signs of an early bloom. Finally, five weeks later, the cherries are starting to pop. As long as we don’t get much stormy weather or wind this week, I predict that next weekend’s celebration is going to be a doozy. In a really good way. Of course I’m going to be out of town. Figures.

cherry blossoms foreverweeping cherries

ANYWAY. Over the last couple of years after many meandering walks through the garden, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of Hanami. Initially, I always thought of hanami in a very literal sense: stop everything, get thee to the garden, see the flowers, and take photos to try and capture a piece of the magical cherry blossoms.

In the last couple of years though, it has evolved moreso into a rite of passage for spring. It’s almost become an emotional spring cleaning for me, because it seems to satisfy my need to cross a bunch of stuff off my checklist. The cherry blossoms give me my annual assignment:

— Get out of the house!
— Get your act together for the year’s gardening plans!
— Go see your friends and family. Don’t be a recluse!
— Be active! Ride your bike! Get to the gym! Get moving!

The cherry blossoms are very practical blossoms. It’s hard to argue with their logic.

promise of spring

So this weekend, I did as I was told and tore the house apart for a round of spring cleaning. I also managed to do a lot of yoga, purged a boatload of paperwork, and got to see the cherry blossoms through the eyes of my five-month old baby cousin, Olivia. The gardening plans are starting to form slowly but surely and I’m confident they’ll come together. (I want to try my hand at roses. Thanks a lot, Marie.)

I don’t know that I owe all of the productivity to Hanami, or to the cherry blossoms, or even to our upcoming vacation this week. But I do think that that it’s a concept I should try and embrace more in my life. The practice of simple appreciation, of gratitude for the beauty which surrounds, of slowing down and being more present — these are all things which really require practice.

And I need lots of practice.

Untitledshinto spring

Rekindling the Love for Prospect Park

It’s been awhile since I used to spend much time in Prospect Park. When I first moved to Brooklyn, this the park used to be my oasis – a place of refuge and relaxation. I’m not sure if it’s work or life or all the work I COULD be doing on the house at any given moment, approved but somehow that quiet time amongst the trees has been one of the things I’ve accidentally given up over the last few years.

Thanks to CH Cycles and the longer daylight hours, viagra my newly-repaired bike and I have been taking an evening spin around the park and falling right back in love. Nighttime bike rides in Brooklyn are one of life’s sweetest pleasures, and it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to relax after a long day at the office. Using gmap-pedometer.com, I’ve discovered a couple of great 7 to 8-mile loops from my house through the park and back, and it’s been blissful. Plus, I just realized this past week that I can actually use that site to track my rides and workouts — I’m hooked!

I thought I’d share a few recent Instagram photos from my nighttime bike rides and I can’t wait to take more this week. If you ever want to go on a nighttime ride / photo outing, let me know! It’s even more fun with friends.

Flickr Faves: Botanic Beauty

Last weekend, visit our impromptu meet-up at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden turned out to be a lovely time. We had a chance to see a preview of the new visitors’ center which is scheduled to open May 16th and also the extension plot for the upcoming native flora garden extension. Plus, the cherry blossoms were indeed beginning to bloom around the Japanese pond — life is good.

Check out a few of my favorite shots from the walk and have a lovely week!

“Out of Reach,” by Barry Yanowitz:
out of reach

“Panorama, Pond, Japanese Garden,” by Chris Kreussling at Flatbush Gardener:
Panorama, Pond, Japanese Garden

Untitled, by Michael Pearce and “Ents”, by Chris Kreussling at Flatbush Gardener:

Untitled, by Michael Pearce:

Instagram snapshots, by Adam Lerner:

Untitled, by Michael Pearce:

Panorama of the expansion site for the Native Flora Garden, by Chris Kreussling at Flatbush Gardener:
Panorama of the expansion site for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Native Flora Garden

… and though he couldn’t make it to this meet-up, I couldn’t help but include Shawn Hoke‘s lovely photo from the garden this week! Brooklyn is for lovers, indeed.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Couple Self Shot

Happy New Year!

The last few days have afforded me some time for reflection, find and I am so looking forward to the promises and opportunities that a new year brings. This past year has been huge for me — a new consulting career, advice a new house to renovate, visit new friends and coworkers. I’ve risen to challenges, redefined my goals, and redrawn my boundaries — and not always in the healthiest of ways. Only in the past few weeks have I realized that despite all the newness of the past year, I haven’t taken enough time for myself.

Last night in Red Hook, as the sun set one final time in 2011, I made a silent commitment as I looked out over the bay. I’m not yet sure what my resolutions will be this year, but they definitely include far more *me* time. Bring on the selfishness! Today I celebrated by taking a decadent walk through Prospect Park. The sunshine was wonderful. Out with the old and in with the new, indeed.

Here’s to a great year ahead, and may your 2012 be filled with lots of *you* time!