May 12, 2022

AF CommunityCulture

Sakura & Beauty

By: Mahalakshmi Subramanian

Sakura is the name of the cherry blossom tree commonly found in Japan. Each year the Sakuras bloom intimately in delicate light pink flowers and signal the arrival of Spring. The blossoms last for a short time, and the plant bears no flowers for the rest of the year. Naturally, the blooms mark the end of dark winter and symbolizes renewal, light, and the fleeting nature of life itself.

Every year D.C. celebrates the flowering of the cherry blossom tree as a festival for four weeks. The celebration is a century old and marks the gifting of the trees from the people of Japan to the people of the U.S. in the year 1912. I had the chance to visit the cherry blossom trees in Washington D.C. multiple times this year.

The first time I was there, walking through a cloud of loosely bloomed flowers amidst a flood of people, I wondered – how do these trees attract so many visitors? Is it a marketing gimmick? Alike a few petals from the delicate flowers landing on the ground from the breeze, a revelation landed on my thoughts – beauty!

People are here to experience beauty. As I reflected, I realized, a floating feeling of warmth and ease was inside me, ever so subtly.

I walked on taking in all that beauty had to offer. It’s impossible to miss that it’s a fleeting moment with the blossoms vanishing in a few weeks. Is beauty, or clearly, the experience of beauty always short-lived?

I had brought my favorite poetry book with me the second time I visited the Sakuras. There could be no better pairing.

Reading an immersive poem could seem like a fleeting experience of beauty – similar to the initial buds, florets blooming into flowers, and time unraveling it. But is it truly fleeting?

Beauty, primarily defined as a pleasing experience to our senses, is attributed to shape, color, and form. But beauty can also evoke our cognition – not only sense things but also process and understand them. Wandering in the meaning of poetic stanzas not only pleases our senses but could rewire them.

We all experience dark winters, and beauty is a coping mechanism unbeknownst to many. It soothes our nerves, calms our senses, and pauses time. Best of all, beauty is the guiding light to build strength and create meaning.

The world we live in, and our lives are shaped by randomness, and we cannot possibly deduce the reason for everything that happens to us. Searching for answers to ‘Why me?’, while either having lost a dear one to the COVID-19 or to cancer or to any other unreasonable grief could lead us toward a downward spiral of trauma and make us feel defeated. But we can build strength from our adverse experiences by looking past the things beyond our control and still design a life filled with meaning.

Through meaning, we can build resilience in the darkest of times. Resilience rewires hope and courage in our neurons, and one can claim that beauty inspires life. To that effect, may we all seek and indulge in beauty!