Tonight, my fortune cookie says:
What do you think of when you think of “the longest days”?
Is it sad to think that those longest days have to end, because they are bright and beautiful?
Or is it comforting to know those longest days are going to end because they are dark and dismal?
During the winter when the days are long and dark, it’s a comfort to know. Sometimes the season feels like one cold dark day that just doesn’t want to end. Then spring comes, the daylight hours get longer, things are brighter and more hopeful. When the longest days of summer arrive we wish they could last forever. But we know that soon we are in for a fall.
One of my favorite places to watch the changing seasons as a child in Newark, NJ, was Branch Brook Park. And the most anticipated time of year in Branch Brook Park was the second week of April when the cherry blossoms bloomed. Every day for two weeks at the end of the winter, we would check to see if the trees were budding. Finally one day there they were, the first buds! Then within a few days the world was covered in a sky full of pink and white flowers. It really was the most amazing sight as a child, a magical fairytale land.
I still wait for them every year. During the first 2 weeks of April I drive through the park almost every day, waiting, looking, hoping, waiting, wishing, waiting that they would hurry hurry hurry up and blossom already.
And then, one day, it happens. And then, I want time to stand still. I want be there, under the trees, suspended in time.
In Japan, where the trees are more prolific, there is a word for this; hanami, flower viewing. Some businesses actually close for hanami. People meet under the trees and picnic, enjoying the blossoms. They sit under the trees during the day, and hang lanterns so they can sit under the trees at night. They just sit under the trees and view the flowers. They take the time to appreciate them while they can because they are so transient, ephemeral, impermanent.
The blossoms are a physical embodiment of the fleeting nature of all things in this life. They bloom, and then within days they are taken away on the wind, snowing down to blanket the ground, making way for the green leaves that last through the summer.
For thousands of years they have been the stuff of poets, inspiring a million haikus, sonnets, terzanelles. Nothing gold can stay, so gather those blossoms while ye may.
Every year I look forward to their blossoming with hope and expectation, then they bloom, and slowly the reality of the never-ceasing passage of time starts to creep in. This soft pink world is bittersweet, rife with the knowing they will be gone all too soon, and I will be left standing there, surrounded by the fallen pink petals.
The soft sweet blossoms
I long for them every year
They come, and then go.
Last week John surprised me with a beautiful anniversary gift, cherry blossoms that would last all year! He gave me an amazing painting of a tree that is in Branch Brook Park.
It was flowing and textured and it popped off of the canvas. And it was freshly bloomed! The paint was still wet, as a matter of fact. It wouldn’t be completely dry for months. So while we tried to decide where I wanted it to hang, John stood it up on a bench on our enclosed porch, an out of the way bench that no one really ever uses.
I brought the girls out to the porch, showed them the beautiful painting, explained to them that it was still wet and told them to NOT go near it. Clearly, and succinctly. Do. Not. Touch. This.
Less than 24 hours later I was awoken by the screams of a frantic twelve year old.
I ran down stairs to make sure that no one was injured. Then I saw Shannon standing there with smudges of paint all over her clothes and hands. I tried to understand what she was saying between the screeches and sobs, and then suddenly my mind pieced together what had happened. She had sat down on the bench and smushed the painting.
I went out on to the porch to survey the damage. I found the smushed painting, and I lost my yoga. I spewed a few expletives that she had never heard before. It lasted for quite some time.
I’m not sure how long I had been Psycho Mommy, but there was a point in there somewhere, a moment of clarity. I realized that perhaps this was the perfect fate for a painting of cherry blossoms. The delicate beauty of the painting was just as fleeting and impermanent as the actual flowers.
And why do I love them so much, after all?
I love them for their bitter-sweetness. I love them for the unrequited longing they stir in me. I love them for the lessons of impermanence and non-attachment that they try to teach me time and time again. I love them for the yearly reminder that I must gather their blossoms while I can, because time is fleeting and nothing lasts forever.
Nothing lasts forever.
Even the longest of days will come to an end.