Budding History: On Nationalism and Cherry Blossoms
Through myth-making and symbolism, the natural world comes to stand in for potent human ideals.
The Lives of Others
Prunus serrulataPrunus pseudocerasus
Instead of snow, pale petals dusted the ground in January.
When the cherries bloomed again in March, the pandemic was upon us. Wearing masks and sunglasses, my husband and I strolled with our dog beneath the cherries along the Wall. We marveled at their pinks against the grey. This was a land marked by loss—but the trees stretched their roots beneath it, and scattered the path with petals, indifferent perhaps. It seemed wondrous that cherry blossoms could hold the weight of histories we’ve laid upon them, even briefly, before the flowers fell again.
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It took me years before I realized that I’d built my notions of beauty from the stories of a distant land.
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It is not so much that these things are invisible as it is that people are trained to hide them, and society is conditioned to look away from them.
It is not enough to be pretty. It is not enough to be obedient, or deferential, or useful. Being not a problem is not enough for a person to live on.