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 108th 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 think fondly 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.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

4 Comments

  1. Wow, Julia, what a glad and somber time it must be, to share an Easter dawn with friends among so many symbols of honor and commitment to relationship. To me, the dawn of a new Easter always makes me almost giddy, and layering that emotion on the emotions inspired by your Easter morning with Maggie’s family would be amazing. Indescribable, really.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • You’re welcome. It’s a precious memory. Maggie’s parents were very dear to me and gave me so much over the years I was blessed to know them.

  2. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    I hope you are good, and enduring the current tumult. Who would have thought just one month ago??
    Given the world situation today, I feel like your comments from seven years ago are keenly appropriate for today as well. We all should be mindful of and treasure the simple gifts. And what a great verse from Micah 6: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God!
    Stay well, my friend!

    • Hi Chris! Yes, our lives can change abruptly, in the blink of an eye. That’s a lesson I first learned in 1985 (when Matt was born and his heart problems were diagnosed from the neonatal ICU) and then again when Jeff was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the essential lessons remain relevant through all the changes. As I may have mentioned before, that verse from Micah 6:8 was read at Jeff’s graveside. When the chaplain asked me what scriptures were most appropriate to summarize Jeff’s life, that was the first verse that came to mind. And it’s a great summary of how we should live under all circumstances.

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