The sadness of Japan’s natural disaster brings back memories of Katrina for me (my folks are from New Orleans, and I have relatives there). There are those natural routines in the world that we look forward to at this time of year: the sound of robins chittering at dawn, the dusty-sweet nighttime perfume of cherry and plum blossoms, the burst of regal greens from brown twigs, the thick splat of spring rains exposing wriggling pink worms on soggy ground. When something so reordering and incomprehensible happens in the natural world, it seems to make those solid and annual rituals of the earth’s renewal seem thin and fragile.
It’s at those times that I need to find solace in small things. For me, celebrating the cherry blossoms this year seems like a good way to connect. Cherry blossom festivals, an important ritual in Japan in which people view the blossoms and share meals under the trees, are happening this spring across the world. Many of the festivals this year are using the event as a way to raise money to help the people of Japan. For example, the Red Cross will be accepting donations at the 2011 Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California, in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. At the 35th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival in Newark, New Jersey’s Branch Brook Park (which has 4,300 cherry blossom trees), 50% of proceeds from sales of the festival’s lapel pins will go to Red Cross efforts in Japan. Take a moment to look up the festival that is local to you and support those in need.
I leave you with what seems an appropriate poem from farmer-poet Wendell Berry.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world and am free.
Enjoy and be fruitful!
—Chris Mittelstaedt, email@example.com