April 11, 2010

Cherry Blossom Mind

Most people don't think of Northern New Jersey as cherry blossom country. Washington D.C. is the one that gets all the attention this time of year. But Essex County was actually the first county park system created in the United States and it has some impressive landscapes that were designed by the landscape architecture firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Essex County's  Branch Brook Park was conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted (the most famous parks designer of his time - Central Park in NYC is his) and Calvert Vaux in 1867, designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm between 1898 and 1938, and saw its first cherry tree planted in 1927. The park is listed on both the National and New Jersey State Registers of Historic Places.

I grew up a few miles from the park and worked near the park for some time, so I have seen the cherry blossoms many times and they continue to be inspiring.


Between our two lives
there is also the life of
the cherry blossom


A lovely spring night
suddenly vanished while we
viewed cherry blossoms


Kannon's tiled temple
roof floats far away in clouds
of cherry blossoms


Basho

Cherry blossoms - and other spring blossoms like plum and peach - are very much a part of poetry, especially haiku. Appearing on seemingly dead branches, they are often symbolic of spring. I some poetry, they are the almost unnoticed flowering of enlightenment or Buddha-mind.

They are what follows the winter that is more associated with meditation, spiritual practice and isolation.

In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.

Issa


In the shade of enlightenment, separation from those people and things around you is gone.



Western poetry also uses the cherry blossom.


Loveliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Housman




Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings by Basho
Basho: The Complete Haiku





A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems: The Collected Poems of A. E. Housman


NJ NOTE
Sunday, April 18 will be Bloomfest at the very pink Branch Brook Park with Japanese cultural demonstrations, children's activities, live music, a crafter's marketplace, food, and more - all free, 11am to 5pm. Most activities take place around the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center.   http://essexnjblooms.org/CherryBlossoms.aspx

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