Washington, DC, is most beautiful in the spring. Just in general, the waves of flowering trees and shrubs keep things colorful from late March until well into June. The weather starts to get nice; mid-April is like late May in New England. But the one attraction that brings tourists to DC is the Tidal Basin and its rim of flowering cherry trees. There are other cherry trees in the general area, but the Tidal Basin in the epicenter of the blossoms, as though a tsunami of cherries washed far out into the suburbs, leaving equally picturesque trees clustered in somewhat less picturesque spots all over.
The cherry trees were a gift of the Japanese people to the American people in 1912. This has remained a precious heritage despite the fact that 29 years after the gift the Japanese government apparently determined that the American territorial islands of Hawai’i were a threat to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and bombed them, killing many of those people to whom the gift of the trees had been given. In the ensuing almost four years the gift recipients fought against the gift givers; the bloodiness of that fight is
expressed in the Marine Corps War Memorial that ironically overlooks the Tidal Basin blossoms from its high ground on the Virginia side of the Potomac, and many of the white crosses in nearby Arlington National Cemetery memorialize Americans killed by Japanese.
But that one malignant aberration aside, the trees bring annual hope that good will, kind thoughts, and mutual love of beauty itself can prevail and link even peoples with disparate language, religion, and heritage. In Washington there is an annual two-week festival for the blossoms, and I pay my own small respects by doing at least one ride along the Potomac River while the blossoms are out (see posting entitled “Potloop,” 4/16/10). Yesterday I went. The trees, it must be admitted, were past their peak of bloom. The cold, windy, rainy late March/early April weather of which I have complained decimated them early, and April 3rd had been pre-calculated to be the end of the peak bloom period anyway. But sitting on a bench on the Virginia shore right across from the Tidal Basin, with a panorama that included the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office Building tower, the Capitol Dome, and the Jefferson Memorial, brought home the place of those delicate colors of white and pink still daintily visible across the way amid the brightening green of new tree leaves.
Today it was a new ride in a new direction. I rode out on the W&OD to visit my granddaughter Emma, who was entertaining her Grandma Jane for the day in Herndon. Emma was into tasting things–mulch, dead magnolia blossoms, and such. We all sang a song about a diminutive arachnid who, having been washed down a drainpipe by a sudden shower, recommenced her upward climb. Then we saw a real spider by the front door. We played with the mulch. Emma liked being outdoors.
I liked riding home via Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway back to the W&OD. The cherry tree plantings along these routes are supposed to be among the most spectacular aside from those in DC. And I would not disagree, given what I saw today. These blossoms are still out in full force, either because the variety of flowing cherry tree is different or because the season is several days later out this way. Probably both. Anyway, in the good old federal employee tradition of double dipping, I double-dipped my cherry tree viewing this year.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.