Happy Hanami

I am not really a flower guy. It’s probably a fair bet to say that most guys aren’t flower guys. The thing I really love about flowers is how they function – as reproductive organs, as a sort of bait to get other creatures to facilitate something necessary for survival. They function as a piece of synergy, facilitating a huge part of an ecosystem. It’s why I love the macrophotography of flowers – of the dreaded cherry peeping.

But sakura season for me is a landmark that makes me realize how lucky I am.

I was out shooting a river that I’ve shot before, showing a friend’s nephew my “secret” sakura spots, when a passing tourist struck up a conversation with us about how beautiful the area was despite it not being listed in guidebooks. Her assumption was that we’d come from far away to take these photos, and it amused me, because I’d seen these trees bloom for years. It made me realize that for most people, Japanese sakura season is transient, it blows through once in their lives if they’re lucky, and it’s gone.

That idea, the temporary, transient nature of life, is a common symbolism, almost clichĂ© of sakura. But I think for me, I’ve been seeing sakura in a different light.

The photo in this post is of an old sakura tree on the grounds of a temple in Shinjuku. I don’t remember the first time I saw it bloom. Watching it bloom this week I was thinking about how excited a lot of the tourists were to see it, this once, bloom. But I’m lucky. I know it’ll be here next year. And I feel really lucky to have that luxury. As the sakura petals fall, and the sakura season in Tokyo starts to wind down, I can’t help but think that I’m really lucky. There are so many photos in my life that I’ve got just that one chance at. But Japan’s famous cherry blossoms, for me, because of the life I’ve been so lucky to have, are not one of those “just once chance” photos.

The wheel will come around again, and I can take the chance to improve, both in technical skill and in thinking, and try again. Because I’m lucky like that.

When I was thinking about writing this post, I wasn’t thinking about how it might come off as a sort of “nyah-nyah in your face” tour of how cool and lucky I am. I was thinking of it more in lines with what you see with American Thanksgiving posts – I was thinking personally about how thankful I am that I’ve been so lucky in this regard. If you take one thing away from this post, I hope it isn’t that you see me rubbing my sakura photos in your face and doing a victory dance. I hope it’s that you can look around you, and see the awesome things that you have around yourself that make me green with envy. I only had once chance so far to shoot the Taj Mahal, or the beaches of Lefkada. I’ve only once been able to shoot Smith Rock. I’ve never had the chance to shoot the Grand Canyon. Or Iceland. Or Cambodia.

Familiarity may breed contempt, but practice makes perfect. And the sakura aren’t gone yet. I need to get out and practice.