For starters, there's that burst of cherry blossoms that rim the Quad each spring in an exquisite cloud of pale pink.
When I was a student there, I looked forward to cherry blossom time each spring. But I didn't think about taking pictures of them (it was the pre-smartphone era).
In the years since, it has become a Seattle thing, with hundreds of non-students crowding the Quad to see and shoot them at their peak. They even have their own Twitter account now (@uwcherryblossoms).
So last Friday I stopped by the campus on a rainy morning right before a windstorm that would blow down most of the remaining blossoms, already past their peak.
We arrived right after 8:30 classes started, so the Quad was pretty empty. Puddles were scattered around the wet brick walkways. With each gust of wind, delicate pink petals floated to the ground beneath the trees like spring snow.
These Yoshino cherry trees came from Japan, and many are quite elderly for such trees. They were originally planted in the 1930s at the nearby Washington Park Arboretum and moved to the Quad in the 1960s.
“The cherry blossom represents the fertility and beauty of life,” said recently retired UW Professor Tetsuden Kashima in 2014. “In [Japan], the blossoms are a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful, but it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossoms bloom for a short time each year in force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and precarious life is.”
I'm sure the thousands of students and sightseers dashing around on campus are hardly thinking such poignant and weighty thoughts. But in a Japanese art history class at UW (coincidentally, on the Quad), I was introduced to this concept, which the Japanese call mono no aware.
And as the years go by, this concept does resonate with me more. So it was especially sweet to visit these old friends, gnarled and aging, perhaps even more beautiful than in their youth.
As my girlfriends and I, long past our university days, walked past the trees, a student noticed me taking shots with a big camera in hand and came over.
"I'm about to graduate and have never taken a picture of these trees. Can you take some shots of me with them?"
I was happy to oblige.
How about you? Have you been to see the cherry blossoms on the Quad, or somewhere else? Jump in with a comment below and make my day. :)
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