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Just Follow the Cherry Blossoms

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:12am

A gentle wind blows and it snows cherry blossoms right now all over Atlanta. The large, fluffy trees with cotton-candy flowers dip their heavy arms willingly to passersby who just want to touch them or pluck a stem or two to stick in a little bud vase. They are beautiful and elegant and funny and sweet, all at once. And not only do thousands upon thousands of them blanket Atlanta but just two hours south of here, in antebellum-home-filled Macon, Georgia, 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees are blooming, just in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival this week.

It is Washington, D.C., however, that gets the glory because of the 3,000 cherry trees given as a gift from the Japanese to our nation's capital. In fact, cherry blossoms are so tightly associated with D.C. that the new Nationals Park baseball stadium (the first LEED-certified stadium in Major League Baseball, by the way) includes a stand of cherry blossoms that overlooks the field. (The Washington Nationals won their season opener the other night--against the Atlanta Braves. Congrats, but we have more cherry blossoms).

Other cities around the world boast a concentrated number of cherry blossom trees--Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, and other countries such as Germany and Bulgaria. But 300,000, folks, in Macon. 300,000. That's 100 times the number in D.C. Not to mention the thousands that are blooming all around Atlanta right now, probably at least twenty in my neighborhood alone.

The Yoshino cherry blossoms are almost pure white and they last for about a week, and then scatter gently as if the tree were a flower girl tossing its petals down the aisle. If the wind blows just right, it is not uncommon to be driving and have to put your windshield wipers on. If your car has a sunroof and you open it while driving, you'll be gifted with a seatful of blossoms by the time you get to your destination.

Yoshino cherry trees, called sakura in Japan, are a symbol of the ethereal nature of life. When I see the gutters and ground full of the delicate blossoms, I think of the Buddhist monks who spend months making sand mandalas only to pour them into the river as soon as they are completed so as not to get attached to them and to show how temporary they (and life) are.

And so, enjoy. Enjoy them now, in this moment, on this day. Because this day passes quickly.

But not before more than cherry blossoms connects Macon and Atlanta. Today, a convoy of 250 truckers will supposedly turn off their rigs on the side of the road between the two cities to protest rising diesel fuel prices. Some truckers are quoted in the newspaper as saying they don't think the effort will have an impact, that the truckers need to take their message to Washington.

Just follow the cherry blossoms, folks. Just follow the cherry blossoms.
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