It’s that time of year again in the nation’s capital. There’s a profusion of Mennonites on the Metro, and gawking pedestrians who don’t realize they’re crossing the street near a highway entrance. There’s crowded streets and a kick-off to the high season of tourism and allergies.
A swirl of white and pink and purple flowers is bursting out along the boulevards. The air is filled with the delicate snow-storm of petals each time the wind blows. It’s beautiful.
And the pollen turns my black car caterpillar green. (We will not discuss Code Red pollen days.)
But as I was watching the petals trace across the hood of my car, I started thinking about the symbolism of cherry blossoms. It varies greatly from country to country. And it has its own particular meaning here in the DC Metro area.
In DC, the cherry trees mean friendship. And commerce. And tourists.
To me personally, the cherry blossoms are the first steps of Spring. It’s the time when I choose a different route to work for a few weeks to enjoy a tree-lined snowstorm of petals and smile during my commute. It means that it’s time to hop on the Metro and head for the museums. It’s the Cherry Blossom Festival and the embassy food tours. There’s film festivals coming and new exhibits. There are people from all over the world coming to my backyard to see something that is ours. A purely positive, non-partisan, non-political explosion of joy and a celebration of two nations choosing friendship. But I’ll talk about the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms later this week.
Instead, let’s talk about a few more traditional ideas of cherry blossoms.
Buddhism references the cherry blossom as a symbol of wisdom. It is the wise person who chooses to embrace each day and celebrate our short time on earth.
The book on tattoos I was perusing the other day pointed out that the Chinese use cherry blossoms to emphasize the power of the feminine. It is youth and beauty and female power. This is sexual power and female authority; passion and love.
The Japanese, however, see the ephemeral nature of life in the quickly blooming and fragile blossoms. It refers to mortality. It’s the fragility of hope and innocence. It is humility and new beginnings.
In Cherry Blossom Express, I chose the Japanese idea. I internalized a lot of Japanese culture over the years. My mother’s research, my father’s movies, my own interest in the artwork and language, have obviously seeped into my subconscious. My main character is half-Japanese, and so it make sense that the mythology and symbols that run through the book are Japanese. It’s not the only mythology and symbology referenced in the book either. There’s Hindu, and Greek, and a touch of Celtic, but they’re blended together because I am an American and the blending of cultures and mythology is where I thrive.
On Friday, I’ll talk about the history of the trees in the Tidal Basin, what not to do on the Metro, and announce an exciting new reading option.
In the meantime you can order Cherry Blossom Express.
Or pre-order our sci-fi thriller Codes.
Or look at the absolutely adorable Abby the Labby and pre-order that as well.