The Cherry Blossoms

One hundred years ago, the mayor of Tokyo gave the District of Columbia over 3000 cherry trees of twelve different cultivars. The first lady, Mrs. Taft, and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscountess Chinda, together planted the initial two trees at the end of 17th Street Southwest. Cherry trees are all over the city but most of all, they are in the Tidal Basin near the Potomac River. When they bloom, the whole city seems to turn pink.

Another thing that happens when the cherry trees bloom is that everyone comes to see them. New trees, in the form of camera tripods and monopods, sprout up everywhere! It is a photographer’s dream and nightmare all at once, and it is difficult to get a good shot between the thousands of people walking around and the other photographers encamped in the area. Still, there are so many trees and so much beauty that it’s worth trying.

We’d been watching the news all week to see if the blossoms were out yet, and they were taking their time with the cold snap. But then, one day, it got warm and everything changed. I left work a little early in the afternoon and caught the Metro into the District. It was hot out. In the last three weeks it had gone from 26 degrees and snowing to 96 degrees and sunny. I had several blocks to walk from L’Enfant station to Tidal Basin with a lot of heavy equipment, using a less than ideal camera bag for the job, since my easy one was in a box somewhere in storage. My tripod was in storage too, and I could have really used it, but no luck. We must suffer for beauty, as my grandmother used to say, so I staggered on in the heat. On arrival, I saw a mass of people and pink blossoms everywhere. It was gorgeous. I struggled for a position, and waited and waited and waited for gaps in the crowd, and eventually, I thought I’d managed a few pictures that maybe didn’t have heads in them. Sometimes it’s hard being short.

It was so pretty out, and people were all so happy to see the flowers, that it was easy passing the time. I took a few pictures of people with their cameras, and had a bottle of water and a banana. Before I knew it, the sun began to go down and it was time to think about dinner. I consulted the phone for a place to get some oysters or something on the water. Then I tried to walk to the recommended spot. Things went sorta wrong from there.

I started out of Tidal Basin toward the bridge. The wrong bridge, of course. After a while, I had walked most of the way to Virginia. Ugh. I was near the Pentagon and Reagan Airport with no hope of a cab anywhere. I looked for a taxi for a few minutes, just because I couldn’t face the alternative quite yet. Ultimately, there was nothing else to do but to turn around and walk back. I consulted some fellow pedestrians to confirm my directions (responses were “yes, go that way”, and “oh dear that is too bad!” in short succession). A couple of miles later, I was back near the fish market about five minutes walk from where I started, and feeling pretty dumb. Nothing at the market appealed since it was messy and mostly deep fried, and there were long lines. I had passed hunger a while back and gone into that stage where you don’t care anymore if you eat. I shook my head and headed back up toward the Metro. On the way I met some tourists who were lost and also looking for the Metro, so we joined forces and went together. Having lived in the area for only six weeks, I was pretty used to getting lost and it had become a fact of life for me. Slowly, slowly, consulting the map at every intersection, we made our way back to L’Enfant plaza and the Metro, and then it was back to Greenbelt and my apartment in Laurel. I couldn’t wait to get back to someplace familiar.

First thing I did was take off my shoes and put my feet in some hot water while the images loaded into the computer. I seem to remember devouring a bowl of cereal, somewhere in this time too, but mostly, I couldn’t wait to see if anything I had shot came out! Yes, there were at least five images with no one’s head in them! Some were even properly composed! Oh heavenly day! It was worth getting lost after all! Following are my favorites, and the hope that if you’re in DC in the spring, you’ll collect some of your own.

The Jefferson Memorial across Tidal Basin

The Jefferson Memorial across Tidal Basin

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See how crowded it was?

See how crowded it was?

Sunset at the Jefferson Memorial

Sunset at the Jefferson Memorial

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