Waiting for Cherry Blossoms

Thwarted! Our excellent Sunday plan was to wake up early and greet the sunrise at the Tidal Basin, followed by a “walk in the clouds,” an early-bird stroll among DC’s famous Yoshino cherry trees, all abloom. We came, the Sun lazily obliged–but the cherry trees? After days of delay, they are still taking a rain check, their pink buds shut tight and droopy in the bracing morning wind.

The Washington Memorial with cherry buds

We did take that stroll, as dress rehearsal, of sorts. I am determined to get my annual sakura fix early next week. Meanwhile, here is the dashing bone structure that supports the spectacle each year:

Jefferson Memorial before sunrise and cherry blossoms

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, asleep: Now an organic part of the scenery, this “pile of marble” displaced a number–88? 328?–of the site’s beloved cherries, igniting the great Cherry Tree Rebellion

Thomas Jefferson Memorial at sunrise

The Jefferson memorial, basking in the day’s very first rays: The earth underneath these steps remembers the cherry-tree rebels, the 150 women who blocked bulldozers (chains and shovel seizure were involved). As one story goes, a treacherous lunch from Assistant Secretary of the Interior (lots of coffee, no bathrooms) aided negotiations

Thomas Jefferson Memorial at sunrise

The multifaceted Mr. Jefferson

George Mason Memorial, National Mall

George Mason, the “defender of liberty,” relaxes at his memorial

The Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials during sunrise

The Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at sunrise: I am still on the fence about the MLK memorial, but it does fit in seamlessly right there, by the water’s edge

The Japanese Pagoda at sunrise, Tidal Basin

The Japanese Pagoda: This nearly 2-ton 17-century pagoda was a gift from the Mayor of Yokohama. It arrived in 1957, disassembled, in five crates, and with no instructions–the Smithsonian Institution had fun solving the puzzle

Eleanor Roosevelt at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial

I always visit Eleanor at the serene FDR memorial

Cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin

The find: Steps away from Ambassador Roosevelt, we  discovered several blooming branches, besieged by photographers

Beaver, Tidal Basin, Washington DC

The beaver menace: Beavers occasionally get into the Basin and attempt a dam, felling cherry trees in the process

Japanese Stone Lantern, Tidal Basin

The 360-year-old Japanese Stone Lantern, another gift from Japan, is ceremonially lit each year to mark the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Where first of 1912 cherries were planted, Tidal Basi

First cherry tree planting: Not far from the Japanese Stone Lantern is this plaque that marks the spot where the first of the 1912 cherries sent from  Japan were planted around the Basin. First lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first tree, and Viscountess Iwa Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the US, planted the second.

We got to enjoy the Tidal Basin in relative solitude because streams of runners blocked many of the roads around it: This was the day of the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. Captive audience at first, we soon joined the ranks of the race’s appreciative spectators.

Runners, Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

Runners alert!

Front runners, Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

The front runners: Allan Kiprono (Kenya, #1) ended up second in this race, and Stephen Sambu (Kenya, #37) was fourth. As these men raced on, a wave of ovations rose from the spectators and the rest of the runners (crowding a parallel street, all still at a much earlier part of the track). These were celebrities.

Through the throng of runners, I paid my respects to one of my favorite overlooked DC memorials: The District of Columbia War Memorial, honoring the 499 Washingtonians lost in the Great War (it is the only DC-specific memorial on the Mall). Once the National Mall’s major tourist attraction, it is  a quiet place today. Come here when azaleas bloom, and bring a good book.

Runners of the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run pass by the DC War Memorial

More about cherry blossoms: 

Wisteria season (late April):

Waterlilies and lotus blooms (June/July):

Spring posts:

19 thoughts on “Waiting for Cherry Blossoms

  1. The photo of Mr. Jefferson is striking. I stopped at said hello to Eleanor when we were there in February — my first visit to FDR’s memorial. They all have their intriguing aspects. Great series of photos.

    • Oh you have to come back! FDR is my favorite of the major memorials on the Mall. The main feature of it, I think, is water, and you don’t really get to experience it fully in winter. In warm weather, all the water features are on, flowing, whispering–it is so soothing. And the trees growing over the memorial are gorgeous.

    • Ah, that snow, I think, is to blame for the blossom delay! This time last year, the blossoms were long bloomed-out. I hope you’ll enjoy DC this fall. November is another unpredictable month, but it’s usually lovely. Traffic is a nightmare, so I have been relying on the metro (despite some delays, I love DC’s metro–it’s convenient, clean, and stress-free when compared to driving/parking!). Thank you for stopping by.

  2. I didn’t know about the cherry tree rebels. I also didn’t know about the George Mason memorial. I’ll have to search that out. I love his pose.

    Looking forward to your pictures of the cherry blossoms.

    • The George Mason memorial is a little beyond Jefferson, closer to the river. It is especially lovely right now, because forsythias and magnolias are blooming together, and you can see the Washington Memorial beyond them (the monument is a bit ugly at the moment, though, with all the scaffolding). There were two other spots not far from the George Mason memorial that I completely forgot to find: The Cuban Friendship Urn and the area where the first airmail flight took place (apparently, there is a plaque for that)–have you stumbled upon those by any chance?

  3. I visit Dc area often as I have family in Virginia. Someday I will see the cherry blossoms! We are having a terrible spring here. Cold and even supposed to snow!

  4. The cherry blossoms were lovely at dawn on Monday – you missed it by one day! Actually, we had to head back to Boston Monday afternoon, but I imagine the blossoms will really be lovely this weekend! Great photos!

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