Earth Day: Three Epiphanies Underneath a Cherry Tree | GeoEx
  • Share:

Earth Day: Three Epiphanies Underneath a Cherry Tree

By Don George | April 23, 2020

In the past few weeks, I have written about making my ASAP List of places I want to go as soon as we’re able to wander the world again, without waiting for an uncertain Someday. I have also written about the surprising truth that some places are getting booked up for 2021, so you may even want to book your ASAP travels now. This week I want to share a much more personal tale, but one that I hope will resonate with you, too.

Over the last few days, I had been thinking how easy it is to have our visions narrowed and our dreams dulled, how easy it is to feel stuck, lose energy, bemoan the state of the world, and mourn the losses all around. It is easy and of course, sometimes it is appropriate, too. It is honest and healthy to acknowledge and embrace the daily difficulties we face. But it is not healthy to lose hope or to let our dreams perpetually deflate. I learned this all over again on Earth Day, in a most unexpected way.

The day was beautiful, temperature in the 70s, with a deep blue sky and white, puffy, cotton-ball clouds. In a normal year, I wrote in my journal, I would be exultant about all this. I’d be exclaiming at the blossoms, writing poems to the petals, drinking toasts to the budding boughs. But of course, this is not a normal year. I spend most of my hours inside. I scrupulously wipe off every package that arrives at my doorstep. I wash my hands 20 times a day. And when I do go outside, I put on a mask, and meet passersby with a wary eye.

I put down my pen and looked at the calendar: Earth Day. Suddenly our earthly home seemed so intimately interconnected and so fragile, so vulnerable, at the same time. I pictured our great green and blue sphere in my mind. Last year, I wrote, I was in Japan at this time—and then a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I miss Japan, I realized, staring at the white walls in my room. I especially miss spring in Japan, when the cherry blossoms bloom.

In that moment, a mini-quest was born: to find a cherry-blossom view.

I began by exploring my neighborhood. Neighbors’ gardens abounded with orange poppies and red geraniums, white saxifrage and yellow daffodils, golden freesia and purple waterfalls of wisteria. But no cherry blooms.

I ventured to the nearby cemetery, where a line of cherry trees ascends to the top of a rise. But these trees had already shed their blooms; there were no pink-and-white petals to spy. I remembered two glorious trees on a nearby hillside. I found the hill and the trees, but they were ablaze with burgundy leaves.

No cherry blossoms for me this spring, I thought with a sigh.

Then, I’m still not sure why, something prompted me to walk to the town park, about fifteen minutes away. When I crested the hill that leads to the park, I could hardly believe my eyes: There, right at the edge of the green, were two cherry trees still in brilliant bloom! As I approached, I could see that they were someiyoshino, the beloved trees that burst into fragile, fleecy clouds throughout Japan every spring. 

And then I thought: This calls for an ohanami. The ohanami is a cherry-blossom-viewing party, and it’s one of my favorite Japanese rites. When the blossoms bloom, Japanese society comes to a stop, and all the citizenry take to the parks. They spread great squares of blue tarps under the trees, arrange their shoes in neat rows on the grass, bring out bento boxes bearing special treats, like sushi, rice balls, tempura’d eggs, and chicken karaage, and then, of course, big bottles of beer and sake. They feast and drink, talk and laugh, dance and sing under the boughs—presidents and plumbers, students and salesclerks, housewives and models and grandmas. When the cherry trees bloom, the Japanese do too.

So I had to have an ohanami. I jogged home, carefully backpacked a bottle of sake that I had been saving for a special occasion, and a beautiful blue and white ceramic sake cup from Arita that had been given to us as a wedding present. I returned to the park, positioned myself under a petaled branch, discreetly opened the bottle, and filled my cup with the sacred brew.  

I raised a toast to the boughs above and suddenly it struck me: This patch of pink-and-white blooms against the deep blue sky looked exactly the same as the patch I’d seen a year before on a bridge overlooking the canal that runs by the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto. Exactly.

I remembered the precise spot where I had been standing, in the middle of the bridge with the sunlight glinting off the canal. I remembered the blossoming branches that had arced over the water on both sides, the breeze that had stirred the boughs, and the faint perfume of the petals that had descended from the sky. A young woman in a white blouse and pink vest smiled behind a street cart selling cherry blossom gelato, and a path-side coffeeshop advertised cherry blossom cheesecake. A trio of schoolgirls in pink and blue kimonos giggled by. And all along the path, dozens of walkers from at least a dozen countries oohed and aahed at the blooms, and Instagram addicts preened as they waited in a queue.  

Teenage boys in black and white school uniforms sped by on bikes, past a trio of tourists in shiny rental kimonos laughing as they awkwardly clip-clopped on geta clogs. An artist sat before an easel on the bridge to my right, intent on capturing the play of blue-gray-pink light. The plangent notes of a shamisen wafted from behind a shoji screen, and a gusty breeze conjured a scene of twirling, caressing pink flakes.

I drained my cup and once again, the pink flakes gentled my face, and I considered why the Japanese prize such a poignant place. Ethereal and sensual at the same time, these blossoms bring delight to everyone’s hearts and minds. They bloom for a week, or two, and in that short space, bestow a lasting and transforming grace. Then a wind rises, and they soar off their boughs, twirl and twirl and twirl to the ground. 

The flowers are feted for their beauty and brevity, which symbolize the impermanence of everything. Their exquisite beauty is fleeting, and this gives their efflorescence an evanescent, eternal meaning.

Two pedestrians approached, breaking my reverie, and I sighed, remembering that I wasn’t in Japan this time—but then my mother came into my mind.

I scooped up two dozen petals and took them away as a reminder of three lessons I had learned that day:

Like every blossom, every day holds a beauty that is ours to see and to seize. There’s a precious potential in every moment: You just have to sit under the tree.

Yet I wouldn’t have found that beauty without my quest: Even sheltering in place, we can do our best. We can transform each day with energy, intention, and dream; we can make our own reality.

And then there’s what my mother said. Though she left this realm three summers before, she is never far away, and in that moment under the boughs, this is what I heard her say. It was a line she always used when the world upset her stride. She never let depression reign or fear deter her path. She said to me, with a knowing smile, “My son, this too shall pass.”

I arrayed the petals on my desk and wrote these simple words: You can stay at home, feeling stuck and dull, and surrender to despair. But if you look at life in a different way, adventure is everywhere. The time will come when we’ll travel again; we’ll wander near and far. I’ll get to my Japan again; you’ll get to Zanzibar. The time will come, I know it will–this too shall pass, for sure. The global pandemic will end, and spring will bloom once more. And until then, remember this: Earth’s wide wonders still abound, inside and outside too. You hold the key within you now: You just have to open the door.

Yours in abiding wanderlust,
Don George

* * * * *

We encourage you to share your thoughts below; we’d love to hear from you!

When the time comes, GeoEx is here to tend to your wanderlust. If you have any questions about upcoming trips or booking future travel, please call us at 888-570-7108.

48
Leave a Reply

avatar
Photo and Image Files
 
 
 
Audio and Video Files
 
 
 
Other File Types
 
 
 
24 Comment threads
24 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
Don GeorgePatti shales LefkosJacqueline Harmon ButlerPatricia WoeberJane Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Patti shales Lefkos
Guest

What a lovely, inspiring piece, so beautifully written,. There is always so much to learn from you, from your thoughts, your skillful turn of phrase and your positive attitude. Thanks.

Don George
Editor

Dear Patti, Thank you so much for this wonderful note! I really appreciate your kind words. For a writer, a reaction like this is the greatest gift. Thank you, Patti! Sending all warmest wishes — and happy travel dreams — to you! — Don

Jacqueline Harmon Butler
Guest
Jacqueline Harmon Butler

Thanks Don….as usual, you took me on a lovely journey. Yes, I can almost smell the beautiful flowers.

Don George
Editor

Dear Jacqueline, Thank you so much for your kind words! There’s nothing like stopping to smell the flowers! 🙂 Hope you’re well and wishing you wonderful travels, near and far! — Don

Patricia Woeber
Guest
Patricia Woeber

Don thank you. Your message is so poetic and melodic and uplifting. No France for me this year.
Ken and l are lucky because we love our home and garden. One by one the plants bloom.
This has been and still is a scary sad time yet maybe there’s a lesson here as we all needed to pause, to appreciate and to simplify our lives.
With appreciation and hugs
Patricia Woeber

Don George
Editor

Dear Pat, Thank you so much for your kind note! I agree very much with what you say about needing a time to pause, appreciate and simply — a critical lesson for us all! I think/hope we are realigning our balance. Enjoy your garden! (Remember Voltaire? Il faut cultiver notre jardin.) With appreciation and hugs back! — Don

Jane
Guest
Jane

Thank you Don for all your beautiful words and encouragement. The past few weeks have seemed endless, I have felt everything you describe . However, the weather has turned beautiful, grateful for all I have and living in CA. And reading your blog has truly lifted my spirts. I am signed up for your trip next March and I am being positive it will happen
Thank you again for your lovely writing.

Don George
Editor

Dear Jane, Thank you for you beautiful and moving note. I am so happy to know that my blog lifted your spirits. And I’m thrilled to know that you’ll be traveling with me to Japan next March! We are going to have an exhilarating journey! I look forward to traveling with you! All best wishes, Don

Natalie Crow
Guest
Natalie Crow

Don I loved this post!! My mother always says the same to me! “This too, shall pass” Sending lots of love your way. There is truly adventure everywhere. You just have to know where to look 🙂

Don George
Editor

Hello Natalie! Thank you so much for your great comment! We are lucky to have such wise mothers! 🙂 I know you have many adventures in your future. Here’s to all of them, near and far! Cheers! — Don

Margie
Guest
Margie

Your description took me to your trees in spirit. I raise my cup (of coffee) to your lovely offering, and to your wise mother’s advise. In Arizona there aren’t cherry blossoms but the saguaro cacti are beginning to blossom. Thank you for nudging me to see that.
Margie

Don George
Editor

Dear Margie, Thank you so much for this great note — and for your coffee toast! I love the image of the saguaro cacti starting to bloom. There is such beauty all around us — if we just take the time to stop and see. All best wishes! — Don

Melissa Sutherland
Guest

Absolutely loved this. I too am in travel and sitting in my garden in Cape Town under a banana tree I looked up and imagined that I was on a tropical island. Then under my lemon tree, that I was in Italy and under the rustling autumn leaves, in Vermont on a leaf peeping weekend. A different perspective changes everything. You have inspired me to blog about this too. Yours in travel X

Don George
Editor

Dear Melissa, What an absolutely wonderful note! Thank you so much for this gift! In a few words, you have transported me to a tropical island, Italy, and Vermont — such an invigorating journey! Thank you for so perfectly capturing what I was trying to convey. Readers like you are truly a treasure. Thank you — and happy travels! — Don

Suresh Rao
Guest
Suresh Rao

Thank you for a wonderful description of the delightful vagaries of mother nature. There are multitudes of these and not many lifetimes would suffice to drink in their beauties. In such a large cosmic environment nature always reminds a pensive living being of its contrasting dimension for which I believe any language has yet to coin a word to describe it aptly. And yet for those ignorant or those feigning ignorance it has a different but cathartic method to reset their thinking. As an illustration in point we have the burden of the present contagion to bear and contend with.… Read more »

Don George
Editor

Dear Suresh, Thank you very much for your thoughtful note! I wish you many opportunities to quench your wanderlust and wonderlust. All best wishes! — Don

Javed
Guest
Javed

Beautifully written.

Don George
Editor

Dear Javed, Thank you so much! Best wishes, Don

Laila Vincze
Guest
Laila Vincze

I very much enjoyed reading your account of the Japanese cherry blossoms. I am waiting patiently for the day when I can visit Japan – it will be wonderful!!

Don George
Editor

Dear Laila, Thank you for your kind note! I very much hope that you can get to Japan soon. When you do, please write again to me and tell me what you experienced and how you enjoyed it. It will truly be wonderful! 🙂 All best wishes, Don

Laura vaughan
Guest

Lovely piece. It’s Sunday in Massachusetts and overcast. The images of cherry blossoms, girls giggling, and drinking sake in the sun with all those colors around has been marvelous. Thank you

Don George
Editor

Dear Laura, Thank you so much for your kind note! It’s so deeply rewarding for me as a writer to know that my words successfully transported you from overcast Massachusetts to pink-petaled Kyoto. Thank you! All best wishes, Don

Paula Shafransky
Guest
Paula Shafransky

Enjoyed reading this – am trying to do the same where I live. We do have cherry tress blooming right now, and I have been appreciating them for the past several days. Quarantine is better in the spring than in the dead of winter.

Don George
Editor

Dear Paula, Thank you so much for your note! I am buoyed to know that you too have cherry blossoms to transport you. I completely agree that spring quarantine beats winter — and I think it will be even more inspiring next year, when we can say that spring without quarantine is the best of all! All best wishes, Don

Elisabeth DeLuca
Guest
Elisabeth DeLuca

Today I read this, instead of the news!! Thank you!!!

Don George
Editor

Dear Elisabeth! Thank you for this extraordinary compliment! I am happy beyond words that you could read my little tale instead of the news — sometimes we need to remember that the real “news” is well beyond the headline of the day. Thank you again! Happy travels! — Don

Ruth
Guest

Thank you, dear Don, for those comforting and inspiring lines. Here, in Tel aviv, we are not blessed with cherry trees. But when quarantine seems unbearable I gaze at the three small pebbles I brought back from the Iya valley and pretend that somewhere, not far away, twelve other hidden rocks complete the scene and this helps bring me inner peace.

Don George
Editor

Dear Ruth, Thank you for this exquisite and moving note! I love the image of your Iya pebbles and the inner peace they bring you. So perfect! May your pebbles transport you on many fulfilling journeys — until you’re able to make those journeys again yourself! With all very best wishes, Don

Frederic Leist
Guest
Frederic Leist

Thank you, old friend. So eloquently put, and so evocative … I felt as though I were with you on that bridge and in that park, until suddenly I was back in my long-lost orchard, watching the moon rise through the blossoms of the sour cherry that bears delicious ‘albalu’ on my son’s birthday. Next year in Kyoto, or Zanzibar, or Isfahan, insh’allah.

Don George
Editor

Hello Frederic! How wonderful to hear from you! We’ve both come a long way from Old Nassau, but it’s wonderfully grounding to know that our roots stretch all the way back to there. How far we both have traveled since then! Thank you for sharing your very beautiful orchard scene. May our paths cross again soon — in Kyoto, and Zanzibar, and Isfahan! All best to you! — Don

Catherine Watson
Guest
Catherine Watson

Beautiful, Don – beautiful images, beautiful thoughts, beautiful gift. And beautiful wisdom from your mother. I needed all of them today, more than l can say. Thank you for reminding me that the world…the great, big, beautiful world…is still out there, waiting for us all!
Be well & of good cheer, comrade!

Don George
Editor

Hello Catherine! How very wonderful to hear from you! And thank you for your extremely kind and moving words. I’m grateful to be reconnected here, and I very much hope our paths cross again — in the physical world — someday! With all best wishes, Don

Deidre betancourt
Guest
Deidre betancourt

Your sharing was beautiful! It touched me in many ways! We have so many good thought to savor! We just need to take the time to reflect!

Don George
Editor

Dear Deidre, Thank you so much for your kind and moving note! I am really pleased to know that my story touched you and brought recognition of all your own good thoughts and reflections. Thank you for sharing! All best wishes, Don

Heather Cunningham
Guest
Heather Cunningham

This may be my favorite in your series, Don. I loved traveling along with you on your cherry blossom scavenger hunt – the perfect travel adventure for my Friday afternoon! Thank you for giving us words to help us articulate and cope (dare I say thrive?!) during these pandemic times.

Don George
Editor

Dear Heather! Thank you so much for this kind note! I’m so happy that you joined me on my adventure! 🙂 I do hope we can all find a way to thrive even in these extremely challenging times. Happy travels! — Don

Diana Chang
Guest
Diana Chang

Loved your essay and the memories it brought back. I remember participating in ohanami in Japan several years ago. It was a revelation to see an entire country basking in appreciation of the beauty of cherry blossoms, enjoying themselves drinking, eating and laughing. That a band nearby was playing St. Louis Blues only added to the surprising wonder of the situation. Perhaps one of these days i might be lucky enough to travel with you to Japan again.

Don George
Editor

Aloha, Diana! How very wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for your beautiful note! I will be ecstatic if you can travel with me to Japan again! I have the very best memories from our days in Kyoto and Shikoku. Please let me know when you are able to join me again! In the meantime, I hope you are staying safe and are very well. All very best wishes! — Don

Dawne Andrews
Guest
Dawne Andrews

I look forward to hearing from you each week. I sit down with my cup of coffee and transport myself back into the world of travel which I miss so much.

Don George
Editor

Dear Dawne, Thank you for this very kind and wonderful note, which touched my heart! I deeply appreciate your words. I hope we both will be able to transport ourselves physically as well as mentally soon — but in the meantime, I look forward to traveling with you each week! All best wishes, Don

Ron Harrison
Guest

Lovely thoughts but I’m having trouble focussing on them as I realize Mitch McConnell is trying to force my state, California, into bankruptcy. My wife and I love our home and have many remembrances from so many times with GeoEx that make our sequestered times wonderful. However, I’m not leaving the US until a vaccine is developed. Looking forward to my next GeoExpedition.

Don George
Editor

Dear Ron, Thank you so much for your very thoughtful note. As a fellow Californian, I share your concerns about the state. Hopefully, wiser leaders will prevail. I am very happy to hear that you have a mental album of GeoEx memories that you can leaf through while we are all at home; those memories are precious! I hope you will be able to travel with us again soon. Whenever that time comes, we will be enthusiastically waiting to work with you to create more precious adventures and memories! Thank you again for your note and for traveling with GeoEx!… Read more »

Omar Sanabria
Guest
Omar Sanabria

We will prevail. Thank you for such a thoughtful communication. Japan awaits!

Don George
Editor

Dear Omar, Thank you so much for your thoughtful note! Yes, we will prevail. And yes, Japan awaits! I hope we will be able to travel again soon, and I think we will appreciate the world’s wonders all the more keenly when we can! Best wishes, Don

Christine Stewart
Guest
Christine Stewart

That was REALLY Lovely! Thank you.

Don George
Editor

Dear Christine, Thank you so much for your kind words! All best to you! — Don

Janice Walker
Guest
Janice Walker

Thank you for reminding me that happiness is available every day

Don George
Editor

Dear Janice, Thank you so much for your note! I’m happy that message resonated with you! All best wishes, Don

Call Now 1-888-570-7108 

Experience the World's
Top Private Villas

Learn More
Contact Us Today
close-link