“California Poppies in Bloom” –|– Anthony Satori
Hanami is the traditional Japanese custom of appreciating the transient beauty of flowers. Most commonly associated with cherry blossoms, or sakura – which bloom all across Japan for about two weeks during spring – the tradition of hanami dates back over a thousand years, and it was originally celebrated around plum blossoms, or ume. The spirit of hanami can, of course, be celebrated in appreciation of any flower, such as the California poppy, which similarly arrives in full bloom for just a few short weeks during the California springtime.
Every spring, all across Japan, the coming of the cherry blossoms is anticipated with great excitement. The bloom can occur as early as March and as late as May, and it only lasts about two weeks, so the TV news channels and meteorologists keep a close eye on seasonal variables so that they can keep everyone posted as to when the event will most likely occur. And then, when the flowers bloom, they seem to explode off the trees in an overwhelming experience of color and beauty. It is nothing less than transformative to the appearance and feeling of the world around you. And, for just a few short days, the entire culture slows down. People throw festive outdoor parties. They stroll along the streets and avenues soaking in the vibrant pink and white colors of the flowers. And when the night falls, they light and release magically glowing paper lanterns into the darkened sky. Some people write their hopes and dreams on these lanterns. Others write things that they wish to be free of, things that they desire to release from their lives. Some people just hold their wishes secretly in their hearts as they light the flame, and then they watch the lanterns fly silently away into the night sky, carrying their hopes and prayers off into the universe. Hanami is a festival of flowers, but it is really a celebration of the transient beauty of life. It is a chance to slow down and to appreciate what is beautiful, right here, right now, in this moment. It is an opportunity to become aware of what you are feeling in your heart, and to connect with what others are feeling in theirs. It is a chance to pause, to take a deep breath, and to inhale the wonder of being alive.
Perhaps it would be good for all of our souls if we were each to engage in our own personal hanami, in some form or another, every day. Just to pause, now and then, throughout the day, to celebrate – by ourselves, or with loved ones – whatever goodness and beauty there is around us, in that moment. Life is short. But while we are here, if we choose to remain awake and aware, we have this moment. This moment is ours. And it offers us a window into eternity, available to us whenever we wish to access it. In this moment we can choose to experience beauty, to share time, to express love, to find joy. And if we consciously choose to lay claim to our own personal hanami in this manner, every single day, we will have truly won eternity.