Right On Time

How many, many things
They call to mind
These cherry-blossoms!

Matsuo Basho

For weeks we heard the whispers and rumors. Is it time? Are we early? Too late? 

It reminded me of a story that comedian Paula Poundstone told about cantaloupe, and waiting for the exact right moment of ripeness. She urgently wakes her kids at 2 am: Now! Now! It’s perfect! I feel the same way about avocados. Also cherry blossoms.

Pacific Northwest calendars seem almost meaningless when it comes to plants and flowers. Yes, the circadian clock stays the same but everything else is unpredictable. Unlike southern California, where one can grow tomatoes in February, we now have to pay attention – to forecasts, to the last time it snowed, or hailed, or graupeled, to soil temperatures, to cloud cover. Last year we busily planted and enjoyed spring as it ripened. Then it snowed a few inches on April 11th.

But when to go see the cherry blossoms? Poundstone would be proud of us, keeping close watch to see when hail might knock off the petals, when the sun was enough to enjoy the colors at their best, when the crowds might be smallest, listening for the local media or tourists on insta who report on peak timing.

Because they have to be perfectly open, not petals falling and fading (though that can also be a treat), nor closed buds; it’s like cantaloupe, like avocados. Running over every few days to check it out would be time consuming and take from the surprising sensory overwhelm as you stand amidst 100 perfectly blossoming Akebono cherry trees. 

Finally, the moment arrives, and it’s time to go. We drive downtown wading through several cycles of stoplights, stop, go, stop, go, closer, closer, and there – the wide swath of pink after pink upon pink alongside the river.

But oh, this time, hordes of people! These trees were a plague lockdown discovery for us, when roads were quiet, we had time on our hands, and midday weekdays ours to spread out and enjoy. This time, peak blossom coincided with spring break, and hundreds of folks strolled to and fro. I pause. Crowds are not my thing. 

The cherries’ only fault:
the crowds that gather
when they bloom

Saigyo Hoshi

Plunging in, I close my eyes and breathe, and that mild sweet scent is the best therapy ever. The history of the Japanese Historical Plaza commemorates the tragic incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, and I’m reminded, this ain’t no time to hate. (I wrote about the history on last year’s blossom blog.) I entered into the festival feel, the celebratory mood, and like the best concerts, the people watching is as good as the main act, everyone happy to be there.

In the cherry blossom’s shade
there’s no such thing
as a stranger

Kobayashi Issa

There were families of all sizes and ages, couples young and old, gloriously costumed folks, a tiny newborn nestled in his father’s large hands, older folks in wheelchairs and walkers. A friendly painter stood at his easel. “I’m not painting the buildings,” he tells me. “I don’t like them. Just the trees and bridges.” He spoke to me as well as to his phone on a tripod, recording the day live on Instagram, and told me he was celebrating finding a place to live. Perfect celebration, I told him.

To cherry blooms I come,
And under the blossoms go to sleep—
No duties to be done!

Yosa Buson

Off to one side, a man plays piano, melodica and pocket trumpet, a patient dog at his side. At another end, teens play pleasant jazz. Toddlers toddle, children chase and climb boulders, reach for the lowest branches, and gather newly fallen petals.

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms

Kobayashi Issa

Babes in arms, littles led by parents, and women of all ages parade and pose in layers of lace, silk and froth in pastel shades of pinks and oranges, as their paparazzi capture the perfect light and angles. Artfully dyed hairstyles add to the celebration. For a moment I regret not purpling my hair, not wearing a costume of my own, just my usual frumpy old lady look. But today I am a spectator, delighting in it all with pleasure.

drunk by cherry blossoms
a lady wearing a haori coat
and a sword

Matsuo Basho

Past the contrasting sagging tents and detritus, we traverse the lower section of the Steel Bridge. The bike and pedestrian path parallel railroad tracks, while cars and streetcars rattle above, making this 1912 bridge unique in the world. The view through girders to the industrial shipping area has a strange juxtaposed beauty of angles and lines in gritty steel and cement. While vehicles rumble, the wide placid Willamette River drifts soundlessly below. A few boats motor beneath, as I rest my eyes on the distant array of humans and blooms.

It’s a wonderful thing to do this with my honey, strolling without a care, swept away by the scent, eyes full of nature’s profusion.

without you–
the cherry blossoms
just blossoms

Kobayashi Issa


We returned to the Plaza one week later with out of town guests, my siblings, and the experience was rather different. Drizzly and cold, petals starting to cover the ground, and the plaza was almost empty. The same views were greyer and wetter, but the space around us was mostly all ours. Some lovely women in full color took photos of each other and happily  posed for me as well.

24 thoughts on “Right On Time

  1. Love love love. Especially since I had the same experience in Seattle. The costumed dogs! I wish I’d taken a picture of them. The blue, blue sky, that darkened and did an April sleet dump on our way home. And the magnificent blossoms. Thank you for sharing this wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, tulips soon! Just as the daffodils are giving up. And now the magnolias are starting too. As much as I dislike these PNW winters, they make me appreciate the riches of spring. Will I ever completely adjust? Have you? Thanks for being her Earline!


  2. I only remember seeing the Portland cherry blossoms once and even then it was by pure accident. Timing really IS everything. Beautiful shots and I just love all the quotes you’ve shared. “A surprising sensory overload”. Perfect way to describe it. You could write a song! (Or maybe you have already?!) Thanks for the walk. I missed them altogether this year so I eagerly await the fields of lupine and white-crowned sparrows as the next best thing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps the song is brewing somewhere deep inside. The finches (purple and gold) have taken over the yard these days. I love how the birds have seasons too. And I hear the balsamroot is blooming in the gorge. Might be time for another road trip! Thanks for being here BR.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Nancy Your blog enticed me to go see the blossoms before they ate just a pink et white carpet on the sidewalk! Despite our winter Spring it seems imperative to go stand under to gazę et inhale the blosdom beauty. Thank you for inspiring, MaryJo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing it. I love the way you threaded haiku into your descriptions! You collected the responses of poets over centuries of blossom viewing. And made us part of that lineage. Dan and I returned from Portland yesterday. Our son and son-in-law and grandson took us on a driving view of the blossoms. Such a wonderful memory of our visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I was hoping you got to see them!! I’m glad. I was thinking I should check with you for the best translations of those Haiku! If any are not the best ones, let me know, and I’ll edit. I just pulled them off of various websites. Thanks for reading Marilyn.


  6. really freaking beautiful! Super loved the haiku threaded into your story. And the mom who dressed her girl as a pink cherry blossom. I’m glad you were able to push thru the crowds are not my thing moment (lifetime? lol) and still take it all in on your terms. I love reading your posts so so much and love YOU xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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