Cherry Blossoms in High Park
Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine…
This song had been playing in my head all day. Earlier, every time I heard the song, I used to have to imagine the kind of wonderland that might have inspired it. No longer, because I now know that it might have looked something like this.
My cousin N, who arranges some of the most wonderful get-together parties, had arranged a potluck picnic in High Park in celebration of the cherry blossoms that were currently in bloom. I would like to tell you how wonderful it all was (N, I was going to bring cranberry macadamia-nut cookies), but I missed it! Asking me why just might bring me to tears at my own stupidity, so let’s not go there.
Now, the beauty of cherry blossoms is a rare thing, because they usually are in full bloom for only about a week or so. Appreciation of their delicate beauty requires a certain dedication on your part, and in this world so used to instant gratification, I find that a good thing. Would I be as mesmerized by a simple white-and-pink flower if I could look at it every single day? Probably not. (In Japan, the blossoms with their ethereal beauty and short existence symbolize the transience of life.)
Determined not to miss my very own hanami, I planned a solitary trip to High Park. (I say solitary because no matter how much my friends love me, no one is insane enough to wake up at 6 am on a Saturday morning to see a bunch of flowers.) Well, 6 am was my ambitious plan, but by the time I had hit the snooze button 19 times and completed the hour-long journey to the park, it was 9 am and my dreams of capturing the early morning light were obliterated by the bright sun way up in the sky.
The park was abuzz with activity – people walking, running, jogging, cycling. I walked along, my urban eyes drinking in the green that was everywhere. However, except for a few solitary trees, beautiful thought they were, I hadn’t yet come across the jaw-dropping sight I had expected to encounter.
But just then, I hit a bend in the road and my eyes widened – I had hit pay dirt. Nature had laid a pink carpet upon the path, as if to welcome me. Blooms wafted down as if on the wings of an angel. Rows upon rows of trees stood in silent solidarity against the slightest harsh weather that would signal the end of the blossoms and the multitude of photographers everywhere (guilty!).
It was soon obvious that no one was immune to their allure – children ran everywhere trying to catch the falling blooms, babies clapped, their eyes wide and sparkling, and adults shed their usual cloaks of casual aloofness. There were exclamations of delight everywhere, grown-ups turned into kids – queuing up for a toy train ride, couples walked hand-in-hand, there were even a bride and groom having a pre-wedding photo shoot to the delight of all the children there. (Mom! There is a wedding going on. Will there be cake?)
It was almost noon by now, and I had been on my feet for 3 straight hours. It was time for lunch. And what a lunch it was! I had made my way to Cafe Polonez, a Polish place in nearby Roncesvalles Village (I love it when neighborhoods within a city are tagged with village and actually live up to it), that I had been eyeing for quite some time. But I do believe that a lunch like that, one that leaves me full and sated and smiling, deserves a story of its own. So I’m going to leave you hanging just for now (I do apologize).
My original plan was to leave for home soon after lunch, but I was still a little disappointed that I had missed the early light – that golden light that photographers so assiduously chase. So I decided to hang around till early evening, and I’m glad I did. Roncesvalles was a pleasure to walk in (yes, more walking!), a neighborhood full of charming cafes, bookstores with new and used books on almost every block, shops selling everything from vintage clothing to produce to organic foods. And underneath it all was a feeling of community – customers exchanged stories with storekeepers, people hummed to Beatles playing in a record store, children stopped to admire each others’ dogs on the street (and this was obviously an animal-loving community).
My stomach full of good food and my shopping bag full of books, raspberries and vanilla beans (I’ve already told you that story), I headed back to the park. But dear Mother Nature obviously had other plans. The sun had disappeared behind the clouds, the sky was overcast and the beautiful day had suddenly turned gray. And there were people everywhere – the blossoms had drawn everyone to the park like bees. There were cars honking, children screaming, grown adults climbing trees to have their picture taken. But as my hopes for a perfect evening or photograph died, a curious thing happened. I decided to take off my shoes, stretch out on the grass and just be. And you know what? The evening turned out to be perfect after all.