Four Japanese cherry trees grew in the back yard of my childhood home. In the summer, the trees provided much needed shade. Come winter, they became obstacles, standing within the rink my father carefully flooded outside our back door. They figured into skating lessons and hockey games. But these trees are not about their summer shade or winter presence. These trees exist for spring.
The delicate blossoms and sweet fragrance of Japanese cherry trees are reason to celebrate. The chances of a final blast of winter are almost nil once the blossoms have arrived. I can enjoy the lace-like blossoms with abandon. They arrive well before the lilacs, harbingers of allergy season.
The departure of the cherry blossoms is as glorious as their arrival. I remember lying a carpet of pink beneath the trees. On dry days, blossoms tickled my face as they fell, becoming embedded everywhere. I’d eventually be driven inside by the cool breeze to pluck the petals from my hair.
There is a large stand of cherry trees in High Park, a large park in the southwest of the Toronto. I lived close to High Park in my twenties. I would ride my bike or pop over in the car to see the blossoms, inhaling their fragrance and remembering the trees of my childhood.
In recent years, the cherry trees of High Park have become a preferred destination for online influencers. It’s easy to understand the attraction. The combination of beauty and cabin fever is potent. The cynic in me wonders if the blossom craze is the result of an increase in actual outdoor life, or the impulse to feed the content mill. And does it really matter if it gets more people outside?
For the second straight year, the High Park cherry trees in were fenced off at peak bloom to curtail crowds and virus spread. On one hand it seems excessive. Yet it’s not a stretch to envision smartphone clutching influencers crawling over each other for their best shot as they live their best pandemic life. My response to the restrictions was to head out early morning, to Queen’s Park, the epicenter of legislative chaos in Ontario.
There are three Japanese cherry trees on the east side of the pink sandstone behemoth where our provincial government sits. It’s the exact place where lockdowns are being issued and extended, for what feels like forever. The morning I took these photos, the province was in revolt. The day before, our overcompensating leader had announced random police stops for people leaving their home for reasons other than essentials and exercise.
In contrast to the protest happening mostly online, I was getting my exercise, camera in hand. I circled the trees, marveling at the silence with a handful of other safely distanced early risers, trading mischievous glances with an older man shooting with a long telephoto lens. Our ironic grins were quiet recognition that in this moment, these blossoms were ours to celebrate.