Life is short
like the three-day glory
of the cherry blossom
These are the glory days. There are over 3,700 cherry trees around DC’s Tidal Basin. Most of them are Yoshino cherries (Prunus x yedoensis), renown for their tangles of single, white flowers, each one a simple star of five petals. On peak bloom dates, 70% of all Yoshino blossoms open, a fleeting feast of several days.
The sensation of wandering under this canopy on a sunny morning is remarkable. The light tastes silky-pink, the world around seems brighter, softer, fresher. There is an aroma in the air that’s hard to pinpoint. It is subtle, yet irrevocably there. Almonds? A hint of peach?
We arrived a bit later than planned, the last accords of the sunrise barely perceptible. The city around was already awake, huffing, sneezing, honking into its weekday. The Tidal Basin hummed with activity. It was still too early for major tourist inflow, but there were joggers, people stopping by on their way to work, locals herding out-of-town visitors, picnickers, and photographers–a small, intense, multilingual army of photographers, vying for “THAT shot.” Watching the spectators was almost as enjoyable as the spectacle itself.
My favorite part of the Basin is its southwestern reach, between the Jefferson and the MLK Memorials. We usually try to park along Ohio Drive, the road that traces the Potomac, and enter the Basin grounds by the George Mason Memorial.
I think the trees in that area are older, more gnarled and interesting, and the curved alleys and rustling waterfalls of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial are so inviting.
The FDR Memorial is my favorite of the presidential pantheons in DC. Water is the essential ingredient of its design. I think the man-made waterfalls began flowing around 8 am as we strolled along the Basin. It really is worth lingering for. So what’s with all the water? From the memorial’s webpage:
“Water was an important aspect of President Roosevelt’s life. As a young man growing up along New York State’s Hudson River, he enjoyed swimming and sailing. During the First World War, he served as Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy. Following his polio diagnosis, he established the Warm Springs Institute in Georgia to help rehabilitate others combating the same disease. As president, FDR pushed for the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and supported other water power projects. So, this theme was incorporated into his memorial.”
As much as I enjoy this memorial, I think, a visit here is incomplete without also seeing the National Japanese American Memorial, located on Louisiana Avenue, several blocks from the U.S. Capitol. On February 19, 1942, 73 days after the United States entered World War II, Roosevelt issued executive order 9066, which resulted in the relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans in the Western states and Hawaii. Allowed to keep only what they could carry, these men, women, and children were taken to remote internment centers, guarded by armed troops and surrounded by barbed wire fences, where some stayed into 1946. Together with the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon across the street, the National Japanese American Memorial is spectacular at peak cherry bloom (these trees usually peak three to four days before those around the Tidal Basin), and is a moving place to visit.
But–back to the Basin. Here are some parting images to hold you over until next year:
More about cherry blossoms:
Wisteria season (late April):
Waterlilies and lotus blooms (June/July):