Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stop and smell the cherry blossoms ?

Ok, I know cherry blossoms don't smell. Or if they do, you'd have to be a bee to notice. The reason they're on my mind is not because they're in bloom right now (which they are) but because of a Japanese saying I read about recently, to "watch the cherry blossoms".

In Japan, cherry blossoms – sakura - are celebrated around peak bloom time through a low-key social ritual known as hanami. You meet up with friends under the flowering trees and have a picnic and maybe a little sake with your sakura. The subtext of "watching the cherry blossoms" goes beyond admiring nature's beauty. As you take in the delicate display of blooms, you're honoring the transiency of life. Watch the blossoms now, while they're in bloom and you have eyes to see. Appreciate the evanescent even as it disappears.

I can't remember where or even in what context I picked up this random tidbit of information, but I recall that the writer commented on the lack of an equivalent expression in English. I was skeptical. I knew I'd think of something. I racked my brains for the anglo version of watching the cherry blossoms. "Seize the day", perhaps? Nope. Too industrious. Too aggressive. You don't seize the day to take advantage of the nice weather and go fishing. You grab the poor day by the throat at 5 a.m. so you can jog eight miles, remodel the basement and start that online business you've always dreamed about - all before noon.

How about "Stop and smell the roses"? Flower reference: check. Time-out aspect: check. Profound meditation on the poignancy of mortality? Not happening. The meaning of this phrase is strictly surface, like quickly sniffing a flower. It's basically a more colorful way of telling people to slow down and relax.

So now, I'm SOC (shit out of cliches) and it's a beautiful day. I think I'll take Winston out for a walk. Maybe I'll run into some cherry trees along the way and meditate on my own mortality. And maybe I won't.

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