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[feature] out of bloom

transience, stillness, envy, gratitude

“They’re just trees; no more pictures!” whines a boy, maybe six years old, to his parents. He is much more invested in the line of ice cream trucks a few meters away than posing with the sakura

At the next tree, a group of girls are deliberate and methodical with their photos. One by one, they smile with the aesthetic backdrop, their friends behind the camera exclaiming ample praise.


Just a few feet away, an older couple is holding hands. They look up as the pale pink petals gently fall around their feet. They don’t say a word.

I absorb the scene around the Tidal Basin, the pinnacle viewpoint for the annual cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C. The entire reservoir is lined with brilliant shades of pink, made even brighter by the vivid blues of the water and sky encasing it. 

The blossoms at their peak draw over 1.5 million visitors to the nation’s capital every year at the cusp of spring. Every cafe, shop, and train in D.C. has infinite strings of pink paper flowers adorning their walls. The frenzy isn’t just due to the beauty of sakura, it also lies in their ephemeral nature. Peak bloom lasts a mere ten days.

As we make our way through the vast crowds and wander around the basin, I watch how visitors interact with the blossoms. Many take photos, eager to capture this fleeting phenomenon. Others simply observe the trees, embracing their elegance and savoring the view. Several have gatherings with an abundance of food and drink under the blossoms, a tradition involved in hanami, a Japanese custom that translates to “viewing flowers.” To celebrate the brief bloom of sakura in Japan, families and friends have parties, barbecues, and picnics under the trees as an affectionate welcome for springtime. Whether it is through a small morning picnic with family or a big party with friends, it is a custom that reflects gratitude and acceptance of life’s impermanence. 

We continue to roam, basking in this universal moment of natural beauty and appreciation.


~ ~ ~

The bloom of the cherry blossoms is a bridge, a state of in-between-ness. With winter on one side and spring on the other, the pastel pinks are almost congratulatory, a sign that reads: “You survived the seemingly interminable, bitter cold; warmth is on its way.” An optimistic emblem of a new beginning on the horizon.

The sight of the cherry blossoms, in their brevity and ephemerality, prompts extensive contemplation about the present. Recently I have been grappling with feelings of mundanity and a longing for a new beginning, likely as a product of imminent changes in the lives of those closest to me—a new city, new school, new job. They—my sister, my boyfriend, some of my best friends—are currently in a cherry-blossom state. Reveling in their final predictable days and eagerly awaiting a bright, fresh start that is within reach. I, on the other hand, am rich in normality and stillness, and struggling to appreciate it.

The timeline of receiving this news certainly contributed to the challenge of accepting my place in the present and its steadiness. Within the span of a month, I was celebrating multiple different admissions and commitments to graduate schools and new jobs. Navigating the overwhelming joy and simultaneous pang of dread became more of a hurdle with each cheerful occasion.

Lately, my conversations with those around me have largely become examining apartment photos, perusing syllabi, and discussing new roommates. I try to extinguish the ever-so-small twinge of jealousy that lies in the pit of my stomach. The feeling is almost entirely subdued by happiness and excitement on their behalf. So much so that this jealousy is almost negligible. Almost. 

A large part of me wants to extract only pleasure from my current state of certainty, of consistency. I love where I am now and the stability it provides. Yet I can’t help but envy those around me, the people I talk to most. I crave the state of the in-between, the cherry blossom state, the exhilaration and excitement of impending change. 

Perhaps it is because the people who are leaving are the people who make Rhode Island feel like home to me. Maybe the root of my envy is fear of the impending changes in my life as a result of their impending changes. Truthfully and a bit selfishly, my next phase feels neither bright nor fresh without them here. 

Everyone undergoes changes, new environments, and people coming and going within them. I feel as though I’ve navigated change well in the past; assuming an adaptive and receptive attitude didn’t feel like a trying task. Yet this upcoming bout of change feels different, lonelier. 

~ ~ ~

The scene at the Tidal Basin, especially the sight of those engaging in hanami, having parties and celebrations among the blooms, celebrating and appreciating life’s impermanent and delicate nature, feels extraordinarily uplifting. It seems like a necessary reminder to embrace change—a gratitude-centered mindset I want to adopt. My visualization of the future may not look as bright and fresh as how I feel in the present, but I feel compelled to accept that things are not supposed to be a certain way for a prolonged period of time. The crowds of people witnessing this phenomenon are doing just that. Rather than dwelling on the blossoms’ hasty departure, everyone is taking in their surroundings, basking in the present moment, admiring where they are now. I want to do the same.


I haven’t quite been able to completely reconcile my unsettling thoughts of the future, this impatience with my life’s timeline, my premature mourning of what the coming months will bring. It may be something I don’t resolve until it happens. While as of now everything is still in peak bloom, it’s a transient phase that will briskly transform into something different.

My only option remains: absorb the scene, take some pictures, and watch the petals fall. 

Another fresh start will come. The blossoms return every year. 

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