Spring has officially sprung in D.C., and to celebrate and cross another item off my 213 in 2013 list, Mike and I decided we were going to brave the throngs of tourists and make it out to the Tidal Basin just in time for the end of cherry blossom season.
For those who don’t know – (I hope you’re all okay with a brief history lesson here), in 1912 the Japanese sent 3,020 cherry trees to the U.S. as a gift of friendship. The first two trees were planted by First Lady Taft and wife of the Japanese Ambassaor, Viscountess Chinda, on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. Today, more than 1.5 million people flock to D.C. each year to admire the blossoming of the cherry trees and participate in several culture programs throughout the city.
I first went to see the cherry blossom trees when I was very young with my parents. I don’t remember too much – just that I complained a lot about my feet hurting as we has spent the better part of the day walking from the Lincoln Memorial to the National Monument to the Jefferson Memorial. Even still – I thought the vibrant, bountiful trees were beautiful and I enjoyed having the blossoms stuck in my hair as my mom held my hand and walked me through the Basin.
I hadn’t been back to see them since. Between moving to Pennsylvania and hearing horror stories about how insufferable the tourists were, I just didn’t have the motivation to go back. But I wanted to give it another shot.
Two weekends ago my best friend and roommate from college, Jess, came down with her boyfriend Tim to visit for her birthday. We had planned to partake in the cherry blossom festivities and made our way to the Waterfront for a festival full of music, food, beer and fireworks. Unfortunately, the trees were experiencing a late bloom this year and while the food and drink were plentiful – there were absolutely no trees that had bloomed down by the marina.
Before I knew it, around mid-last week, all of the local news stations began reporting that the trees were in full bloom and this past weekend would be the last chance to enjoy them. Without any plans scheduled, Mike and I woke up early on Saturday and set out for the Tidal Basin.
For anyone who knows me – I hate crowds. They make me grumpy and angry and I say wildly inappropriate things – way too loudly. So when Mike and I went to make the transfer to the line that would shoot us to the metro stop closest to the cherry blossoms, and I saw throngs upon throngs of people pushing and shoving to squeeze themselves into already packed metro cars, I began questioning if this entire thing was a good idea.
After being pushed and stepped on a hundred or so times, and cursing quite audibly about how much I hated everyone, we got off at the Smithsonian stop and slowly but surely made our way over to the Basin.
The trees were no longer in peak bloom but it didn’t take away from the sheer beauty of it all. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm with a slight breeze, which made the picturesque setting even more enjoyable. Of course, the whole thing would have been a million times more perfect if there weren’t clumsy tourists setting up oversized tripods in the middle of the walkway to take a thousand pictures of themselves in front of the trees – but regardless, if you’re able to tune out all of the craziness, all of the crowds, all of the noise – you’re left with a canopy of more than 3,000 beautiful trees, their blossoms as delicate as I remember. You feel like a part of history just being there.
Mike and I grabbed a funnel cake (by his demand) and found a semi-quiet spot under a group of trees. It was perfectly shaded, with rays of sunlight peaking through the hundreds of branches and warming the sides of our faces. As we laid on the grass, I closed my eyes and wrapped each blade between my fingers. I smiled when the wind blew and a few dozen or so blossoms landed on my cheeks. It was in that moment that everything quieted and I was 5 years old again, swinging from my mom’s hands as the blossoms kissed our faces.
It was the perfect reminder that you can always find peace, even among the chaos.