Stronger than a fortified city

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is framed by cherry blossom trees on Easter, sometime around 1978.

Cherry blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial at dawn on Easter, many years ago.

“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.


  1. Thank You! i believe also. Giving thanks in rememberance. Also for you, BeLOVE Julia and family, in my heart and prayers.IJN.

    • Thank you Kate! We appreciate your keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

  2. Sheila

    Julia, that’s a very interesting article about the aging cherry trees, They are so symbolic of Washington. It’s such a beautiful time to visit. Your early morning photo is spectacular as you captured the moment. I so hope and prayer that the MRI will show good results and that Jeff’s condition has been “resolved”. In God, all things are possible. Sheila

    • Thanks so much for your encouraging words, Sheila. We really appreciate your prayers. Thanks also for your kind words about the blog and photo! Peak bloom time has been predicted for the first week of April this year, according to the last report I heard. I hope to take some more photos this year.

      • Sheila

        Something tells me you will…. and with a happy heart, I pray!

  3. Bobby Harris

    I had never thought of visiting a cemetery on Easter Sunday but what a wonderful way to celebrate the event that will empty those graves. He is risen.

    • Bobby, a wonderful thought! Thanks for being here!

  4. What beautiful memories! I have never seen a cherry tree but they have attracted me a lot through certain Japanese films and posters. Lovely shot. Long live the cherry trees! Long live all friendships!

    • To that I say a hearty “Amen!” Perhaps someday you can visit Washington DC in the springtime and see the trees in bloom here.

  5. I would love to be in Washington for this event, I bet it gets super busy and crowded though. When I see beautiful tree’s in a garden like this, I think of this song I knew, “like a tree out in our backyard, who’s branches are never broken by the wind, are love will last forever, as long as we are strong enough to bend”. To me it just says we are stronger together but not to be inflexible, but to bend for each other.

    • Supposedly it gets pretty crowded at this time, but probably not too much worse than it is almost every day in the summer time. Tourists are pretty much a fixture in DC. Believe it or not, I’ve never been to any of the festival activities because we are usually in Atlanta during festival week; Jeff has a conference there each year about this time. It was cancelled this year due to budget cuts, which means we may have a chance to attend some of the festival activities; I hope so.


  1. In the cherry blossom’s shade | Defeat Despair
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