The Poetry of the Cherry Blossoms Comes to Life in a One Minute Time Lapse Video

Are we to look at cher­ry blos­soms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloud­less? To long for the moon while look­ing on the rain, to low­er the blinds and be unaware of the pass­ing of spring—these are even more deeply mov­ing. Branch­es about to blos­som or gar­dens strewn with fad­ed flow­ers are wor­thi­er of our admi­ra­tion.

-Yoshi­da Kenko, Essays in Idle­ness (1330–1332)

Depend­ing on your coor­di­nates, cher­ry blos­som sea­son is either approach­ing, over, or in full riotous bloom. Every year, the Brook­lyn Botan­ic Gar­den sched­ules its annu­al Saku­ra Mat­suri fes­ti­val in igno­rance of what the weath­er may hold. Will lin­ger­ing win­ter tem­per­a­tures delay the blos­soms, or will spring come ear­ly, caus­ing the trees to erupt way ear­li­er than antic­i­pat­ed?

The only thing one can be cer­tain of is a mob scene, as ardent flower-view­ers of all ages stam­pede toward the cot­ton can­dy-col­ored trees, devices in hand. Mod­ern hana­mi prac­tice would sure­ly con­found the elite of the 8th Cen­tu­ry Impe­r­i­al Court. They wouldn’t have under­stood the con­cept of “self­ie” if it bit ‘em in the shakuhachi.

Of course, for every deter­mined 21st-cen­tu­ry soul who makes a point of admir­ing the blos­soms dur­ing their brief appear­ance, there are thou­sands more who, in the words of bureau­crat-turned-monk, Kenko, “low­er the blinds…unaware of the pass­ing of spring.”

Per­haps this lat­ter group is who Dave Allen, the Brook­lyn Botan­ic Garden’s for­mer web­mas­ter, had in mind when he installed a cam­era in a weath­er­proof box near the Cher­ry Esplanade. Every 3 min­utes, the shut­ter snapped, cap­tur­ing not just the glo­ri­ous Prunus ‘Kan­zan’ (aka Sekiya­ma) that line the walk­ways, but also a wide range of vis­i­tors who flocked to the gar­den between April 18 to April 26, 2008, seek­ing respite from the pres­sures of urban liv­ing.

The time lapse video Allen assem­bled from 3000 cap­tured moments takes slight­ly more than a minute to view. I think we have time to spare…

Watch it once for the main attrac­tion…

And then again for the (pix­il­lat­ed) peo­ple. Ran­dom­ly press “pause” to catch a kiss­ing cou­ple, a Hasidic man in a shtreimel, and a lit­tle girl in pink who some­how found her­self the sole human on the path…

Then one more time for the shad­ows of the clouds. Ah… That’s like­ly the time-strapped vir­tu­al viewer’s best chance for achiev­ing the sort of mind­set one might ascribe to The Tale of Gen­ji.

(Though per­haps a calm and con­tem­pla­tive mood was nev­er the goal. As ninth cen­tu­ry aris­to­crat­ic poet Ari­wara no Nar­i­hi­ra wrote (in trans­la­tion by Hiroa­ki Sato & Bur­ton Wat­son):

If there were no such thing

as cher­ry blos­soms

in this world,

in spring­time how untrou­bled

our hearts would be!

There is a mod­ern schol­ar on Tum­blr whose research sup­ports this take on the pink blooms’ blood quick­en­ing effects.)

In a week or two it will all be over.

As the petals fall, take refuge in Toi Der­ri­cotte’s recent poem. Its set­ting should feel famil­iar…

Cher­ry blos­soms

I went down to

min­gle my breath

with the breath

of the cher­ry blos­soms.

There were pho­tog­ra­phers:

Moth­ers arrang­ing their

chil­dren against 

gnarled old trees;

a cou­ple, hug­ging, 

asks a passer­by

to snap them

like that,

so that their love

will always be caught

between two friend­ships:

ours & the friend­ship

of the cher­ry trees.

Oh Cher­ry,

why can’t my poems

be as beau­ti­ful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed

coat sets a card table

with linens, can­dles,

a pic­nic bas­ket & wine.

A father tips

a boy’s wheel­chair back

so he can gaze

up at a branched


                     All around us

the blos­soms

flur­ry down


        Be patient

you have an ancient beau­ty.

                                            Be patient,

                                  you have an ancient beau­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Spring: A Short Film Based on Hemingway’s Mem­oir

Venice in a Day: From Day­break to Sun­set in Time­lapse

The Beau­ty of Namib­ian Nights in Time­lapse Motion

Ayun Hal­l­i­day will be releas­ing the 55th issue of her zine, the East Vil­lage Inky at the Brook­lyn Zine Fest this Sun­day. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.