Sunday, April 8, 2012

The life and death of cherry blossoms

I always knew cherry blossoms were beautiful, but I never realized exactly how beautiful they were until today.

I went to Ohanami (お花見)with my host family today. Ohanami means literally, flower-viewing, but to me it feels like so much more than that.

We walked down block after block from our parking spot and strolled down the side of this river. Block after block after block, all lined with cherry blossoms. The walkways were packed: 

Because it was a beautiful day in Japan, it's cherry-blossom season, and everyone in Japan knows how to have the perfect day.

With a picnic, of course! 

The cherry-blossom season is the perfect time for a picnic. It's not very cold out because spring has sprung - in fact after this picture was taken it got a lot warmer and I didn't even need my coat anymore - and also, alcohol. Everyone likes it. 

Drinking, eating, merriment, ensued. 

Some pictures taken after we lounged around in the sun and strolled for a bit.

As we lunched, I couldn't stop thinking about how happy I was. The atmosphere, everyone getting together to enjoy themselves, to appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossoms, to enjoy the day...Being with my host family, eating an awesome lunch and soaking in the sunlight...Today was maybe the happiest day I've had so far in Japan.

Cherry blossoms are famous for their short lives. They bloom, they're beautiful - seriously, these pictures don't even do them justice, I kept thinking that as I was taking pictures left and right as the obvious tourist that I am - and then as you enjoy them at the peak of their beauty, they're already dropping away from the branches, and soon the trees are bare once again. The blossoms last maybe two weeks tops if lucky, and their full-bloom lasts maybe a day or two. Most of the trees in Nagoya aren't in full-bloom yet, but they're getting there.

The short lives of the cherry blossoms really got me thinking. 

Cherry blossoms are fleeting. They are around just long enough to enjoy them the best you can with alcohol and friends, and before you know it, their beauty comes to an end. They're around just long enough to enjoy them for what they are: temporary. 

It got me thinking about my trip. I've already been gone more than seven months, and have only seven weeks to go until I arrive again in the States. And to say that time has flown is an under-statement. Every day I wake up is another day down, and although I'm excited to return to America, I'm also terribly sad to be leaving. 

But I've enjoyed every day, every minute. Every memory made, every picture taken, will be treasured forever.

And it's not just about where you are, but the people you're with. The things you learn. The person you become. Suddenly, it's not just about the ephemeral nature of having a good time, but it's about how short life really is. We should enjoy and treasure every day, because before we know it, it'll be all over.

So enjoy today. Enjoy tomorrow. Because life is beautiful, and you are alive.

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