I took this photo of Sakura (white cherry blossoms) and Ume (pink plum blossoms) three years ago in Kyoto after walking through miles of bright orange tori gates at Fushimi-Inari. In Japan the timing of sakura blooming is closely monitored and when they finally bloom, everyone comes out to picnic beneath them (hanami) and view the flowers, drinking lots of sake in joyous celebration.
Cherry blossoms (sakura) are said to be symbolic of clouds because of the cluster-like way they bloom. Because they are so short-lived they are also a symbol of mortality, the ephemeral nature of life. This Japanese concept is called mono no aware, 物の哀れ, which means the “pathos of things,” a term for the awareness of impermanence, a Buddhist idea. But unlike Buddhism there is a kind of melancholy and wistfulness associated with the term.
The sakura will be blooming in the Chicago Botanic Garden in the next day or two. They will recall for me our relatively recent experiences in Japan and ultimately our so very short sojourn on this planet.