Around this time of the year people all over Japan are on the lookout for the sakura cherry blossom which comes into full bloom between the end of March and the very beginning of May, depending on where you live*. The celebration, called hanami written using the characters for “flower” (花) and “watch” (見) involves groups of family, friends and colleagues gathering together under their favourite tree to enjoy meticulously prepared food and (more than) a few drinks.
What surprised me the first time I experienced the cherry blossom in Japan was how soon after coming into full bloom did the petals of these delicate flowers come fluttering to the ground like confetti at a wedding. It is for this reason that hanami is so hard-wired into the psyche of the Japanese; it marks not only the beginning of the new year for schools and companies but also serves as a reminder of the fragility and fleeting nature of life itself.
There has been plenty put out there about how much time over the course of a typical life we spend working, sleeping, eating, washing up, cleaning or even on the toilet. However, I came across a graphic on a website called WaitButWhy which represents a 90-year life as a series of weekly blocks. There’s not that many of them – 4,680 to be precise.
I have had times in my life when I have been looking forward to something in the future or longing to get over something unpleasant in the present. The weeks have disappeared, sometimes turning into months. How often have you said to yourself “I wish this week would pass more quickly” or “I’ll just get this month out of the way and then I’ll…” or something similar?
As I finished the first paragraph of today’s post, I received a telephone call from the son of a dear friend of ours who has been in hospital recently. It was not good news; he had passed away after 92 years on this planet, that’s 4,784 blocks. Listening to some of his stories, he made the most of his life and the time he was given. None of us really knows how many blocks we will be blessed with, so make each one count.
I know that I’m going to.
*You can plot the progress of the sakurazensen cherry blossom front on the Japan National Tourism Organization website