Janet Frame, cherry blossom and awe

Cherry tree smothered in white blossom with fresh leaves, set in the back yard of wooden houses.
Our local flowering cherry in all its glory. White blossoms falling already.

Every spring I’m lost in the glory of a cherry blossom tree in our neighbourhood. Poet Janet Frame expresses what many of us feel—awe.

... we saw the cherry tree in flower and at once spent
a life's rich astonishment. 

I see it from three rooms in my apartment and it stops me in my tracks from the moment the first bud opens. The cherry blossom tree has its own fan club, which includes tuis galore (absent from this photo). People visit me especially for the view from my deck. (Hurry up people, it’s cherry blossom peak.)

The beauty of cherry blossom is at once excessive, over the top, downright vulgar in its lack of restraint— and yet so dainty, delicate, nervous, transient. The combination takes your breath away. I get an overwhelming gut reaction every time. Never get used to it. Tears, like for Bambi or Lassie. And I’m not alone: why else the annual Japanese phenomenon of Hanami with its cherry blossom appreciation picnics?

And every year I think again of Janet Frame’s poem, The Flowering Cherry. The complete poem is a brilliant, impeccably constructed theory and story binding the fruit to the flowers—but let me quote a few lines that fill my heart today.

When next you pass the flowering cherry now, in September,
look closely at the cool dark wine house
where the blackbirds sing for their supper
where the human senses sing for their survival.

A treasure: Janet Frame reading The Flowering Cherry in her own mesmerising voice in Poetry Archive.

10 thoughts on “Janet Frame, cherry blossom and awe

  1. haoyando says:

    The fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms. It is sad to see the blooming branches, knowing that it will be gone soon afterwards.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Exactly. So perfect, than gone in a few days.

  2. How lovely! We have one cherry tree beside our driveway. When it’s blooming, I always pause to look at it as we go walking.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I am glad it brings you joy every year.

  3. Prue says:

    I have a deep attachment to the pale pink double variety, an astonishing tree that filled the front garden of my childhood home. No photos of it unfortunately but it is etched in my brain and comes to me in full sight.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Your lucky to have that visual memory. I’m also crazy about apple blossom with a snowy mountain backdrop.

  4. alison41 says:

    What a beautiful tree – thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks, Alison. Last night friends came around and we admired it in the late afternoon sun before dinner. Beautiful.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Reminded me of Hopkins poem on Goldengrove–:Margaret are you grieving over Goldengrove unleaving. So much of the beauty around us is transitory and almost demands that we pause and appreciate it.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It does, it does! Carpe diem was never more relevant than now.

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