A Few Days Of Heaven

Monument Blossoms

Like happiness, it never last very long. That’s just the way it is, but while it lasts, it is nothing short of heaven. I’m obviously referring to the yearly spectacle that is the Cherry Blossoms blooming season around the Tidal Basin area downtown Washington, DC. That’s right, the same town where politicians have given new meaning to the word hate, but where nature, in spite of their attempt to spoil it, explodes in all its beauty for a few days in March every year. Around the grassy meadows of the Washington Mall, the eternal fights just a few blocks away seem as in a different galaxy. The beautiful bloom of these bendy trees remains as oblivious of the politicians as the politicians remain of their delicate flowers. In fact, the Cherry Blossoms are a happy zone, a zone where smiles and enjoyment of what life has to offer are potent enough to exclude any feeling of unhappiness and dejection. A zone where “public demonstrations of affection” are not only evident everywhere you look, but where they are impossible to repress amongst so much beauty. It is a yearly ritual that only lasts three or four days, but one that that is the clearest symbol of spring and of the beauty, happiness, and hope that still exists in the world. Nature, and people, at their best. The world could use a little bit more of both.

The First Days Of Spring

The first days of spring bring incredible colors to the Washington, DC area. [Click photo for larger version]
The first days of spring bring incredible colors to the area.
Magnolia trees begin to bloom at the Smithsonian Institution garden.
Magnolia trees begin to bloom at the Smithsonian Institution garden.
The quiet and understated Mary Livingston Ripley Garden behind the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building.
The quiet and understated Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.

Oh, spring. It comes every year as a refreshing breeze that renews our spirits in ways that are hard to describe. With the emergence of those wonderful first flower buds from their winter slumber, we can’t help but think that life continues its yearly ritual of offering us a new beginning, and a much-needed momentary antidote to all that the gloom accumulated during the winter months. And as we take those first, hesitant steps into the warm sunshine infused with the subtle perfume of those first blooms, we realize once more that in spite of all the challenges in our lives, there is still plenty of beauty out there for us to enjoy.

And strange as it may sound, one of the most wonderful places in the wold to enjoy the glory of a new spring is none other than our nation’s capital, Washington, DC. From the incomparable beauty of the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin, to the dreamlike magnolia trees at the Smithsonian Parterre and Moongate gardens, this city of massive concrete buildings and long faces suddenly cheers up as it transforms into one of the greatest gardens in the world. Bureaucrats don’t seem to hurry as much, passerby’s actually smile a lot more, and lo-and-behold, the city experiences a dramatic increase in “public displays of affection.” And if the spring flowering ritual can infuse such transformation on hardened DC bureaucrats, just imagine the effect that it has on the rest of us. Without a doubt, a magic potion for all that afflicts us.

… And Spring Made All The Difference

Japanese impersonators added color to the Cherry Blossoms Festival.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Japanese impersonators added color to the Cherry Blossom Festival. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
No photographic angle was left unexplored by the thousands of photographers who descended on Washington for the Cherry Blossom festival.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
No photographic angle was left unexplored by the thousands of photographers who descended on Washington for the Cherry Blossom festival. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
The delicate flowers that attract tens of thousands of national and international visitors to Washington every year.  Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED.
The delicate flowers that attract tens of thousands of national and international visitors to Washington every year. Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED.
A city that prides itself on moving fast during during the rest of the year slows down during the yearly festival.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
A city that prides itself on moving fast during the rest of the year slows down during the yearly festival. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
At daybreak, musicians welcomed visitors to the Tidal Basin with the sound of rhythmic percussion instruments.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
At daybreak, musicians welcomed visitors to the Tidal Basin with the sound of rhythmic percussion instruments. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.

Some of the great things that come with living in large metropolitan areas are the mix of cultures and people that constantly come in contact everywhere you go.  Granted, that for some folks those are also the very reasons why they wouldn’t be caught dead in such places.  But no matter how anyone feels, there is no denying that cities are beehives of activity for just about every interest out there.  And the more international the city, the more diversity its citizens will experience on a daily basis.  This diversity has been quite evident during this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.  Take a stroll any morning around the uneven shores of the Tidal Basin and you will experience a slew of foreign languages being spoken, people dressed in varied outfits that reflect their country of origin, musicians banging away in some sort of ritualistic rhythm, lovers kissing under trees that glow with the majestic colors of spring, and the sweet aroma of exotic foods competing with nature for your attention.  Photographs may not do it justice, but for the thousands of photographers out there who tried to capture the essence of this brief flowering and human spectacle, there was no better place to be.  And to the Japanese people who kindly made all this possible with their incredible gift, ありがとうございます。(Thank you very much).

Waiting For The Cherry Blossoms

While full bloom remains days aways for the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin in DC, photographers can be found there every morning hoping for the best.  Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED.
While full bloom remains days aways for the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin in DC, photographers can be found there every morning hoping for the best. Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED.

No luck yet.  Today was supposed to be smack in the middle of the peak blooming period for the Washington, DC cherry blossoms around the Tidal basin.  Unfortunately, this tree depicted here was one of the very few that had gotten the word that it is time to bloom.  No doubt the 32 degree morning temperatures have something to do with this.  Mother nature is simply playing havoc with tourist and photographers alike, as they have had to settle with watching the flower buds cuddle tightly on the long Japanese branches.  But, there’s always tomorrow.  And I have no doubt that the third official “peak bloom” prediction by the National Park Service will be a charm.  After all, are we not supposed to be having some spring weather by now?  Well, as they say in the great, power corridors in Washington, “someone didn’t get the memo.”  But photographers are a patient lot, so we’ll be back there again.

Of Kites And Cherry Blossoms

Kite pros discuss their tactics during the National Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, DC.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.
Kite pros discuss their tactics during the National Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, DC. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.
Kite events at the National Mall soften the edge of an otherwise serious city.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Kite events at the National Mall soften the edge of an otherwise serious city. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Sometimes it was hard to separate the kids from the adults, and that was a good thing.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Sometimes it was hard to separate the kids from the adults, and that was a good thing. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.

So how do you get Washingtonians to relax?  Combine the National Cherry Blossom Festival with an all-out kite festival at the National Mall, and suddenly like magic the city becomes one great, big party.  Picnics, laughter, and games do have a way of softening this city’s rougher edges.  And if there’s a time when you actually feel that our national parks do belong to the people, it is at times like these that we all feel that the ground we all walk on is part of the great heritage of America.  This feeling is always made a lot more special by the yearly blooming of our National cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, which mark the unmistakable arrival of spring.  Granted that the blossoms had not fully bloomed yet (next weekend is the projected peak bloom), but for the sun-starved Washingtonians, the start of the yearly festival is good enough transition from the cold, dark nights of winter.  What’s more, it was reported that someone at the festival even saw a politician smiling this weekend, and that my dear friend, is a very good sign.