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, 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.
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!
— COME SEE US AT THE GARDEN!
The cherry blossoms are very practical blossoms. It’s hard to argue with their logic.
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.