Stronger than a fortified city
“Those bound in a fraternity of one mind stand stronger than a fortified city.” — Antisthenes
Today is the first day of the 101st annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC, a commemoration of the friendship between the USA and Japan, symbolized by the 3000 trees given to us in 1912 by the Japanese people.
Each year at this time I fondly think of my dear friend Maggie and her parents, who shared a family tradition with me that introduced me to the beauty of the cherry trees. It was their custom to get up and out before daylight on Easter morning, first going to observe the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery opens much earlier on Easter, so it is possible to see the ceremony at sunrise. My friends felt it was most memorable to watch this solemn ritual at daybreak with few tourists present. Afterwards they would enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Tidal Basin underneath the blooming cherry trees, finishing their walk in time to attend church.
I took the photograph above on Easter morning sometime around 1978. Although I was even less of a morning person then than I am now, I had to agree with Maggie that sunrise is an ideal time to watch the changing of the guard, and circling the Tidal Basin as sunlight dawned on the blossoms was an experience I have always treasured.
The original cherry trees are now succumbing to age, but efforts have been underway to develop genetic replicas to replace them. Likewise my friend’s parents, who welcomed me into their home so many times and treated me as a “second daughter,” have now passed from this earthly life. Their legacy of friendship lives on in their children and the many people whose lives they touched. From them, I learned much about how to enjoy life, to treasure the simple gifts, to spread kindness and good will, and to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”
The Cherry Blossom Festival honors a friendship that has endured over the years, even surviving hostility and the ravages of war. There is no more appropriate time to be mindful of our own friends, and give thanks for the lovely blossoms they have added to our lives.