Monday, April 6, 2015

Atom Bombs and Sakura Blossoms

I just finished reading the historical fiction manga Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kouno. It was a little hard to read, but I figured it would be given the subject matter. Let me explain. The book is about one family's journey from 1945-2004, and talks about the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb explosion and how the family survived it. I've always felt a bit weird about the Hiroshima bombings as my paternal grandfather fought in the Pacific for all of World War II and he was not a fan of the Japanese as a result. I never really got to know him because he died when I was three. Anyways, after reading the children's book Hiroshima No Pika or The Flash of Hiroshima, was a true story about a seven year old and her family witnessing the explosion and what it did to people, I was firmly against nuclear proliferation and against the American government for doing what they did. I know there are many people who will argue for dropping the bomb. I would ask them to check out these testimonies from people who survived it before saying yes to doing it again in the future. 

So I figured to counter all the depressing and sad aspects about Hiroshima, I should think about something beautiful. I've always loved cherry blossoms. I used to live right outside of Washington D.C. and loved being able to watch the cherry blossoms bloom and then fall in delicate pink showers on your hair and clothing. It is one of the most stunning things I have ever seen. These cherry trees were originally given in friendship from the Japanese people to the Americans, so it is this image I will end with. I found this poem about a Buddha sculpture in a beautiful garden which included sakura (cherry) blossoms as well. 

The Garden Buddha
by Peter Pereira

Gift of a friend, the stone Buddha sits zazen, 
prayer beads clutched in his chubby fingers.
Through snow, icy rain, the riot of spring flowers, 
he gazes forward to the city in the distance--always

the same bountiful smile upon his portly face. 
Why don't I share his one-minded happiness?
The pear blossom, the crimson-petaled magnolia,
filling me instead with a mixture of nostalgia

and yearning. He's laughing at me, isn't he? 
The seasons wheeling despite my photographs
and notes, my desire to make them pause. 
Is that the lesson? That stasis, this holding on,

is not life? Now I'm smiling too--the late cherry,
its soft pink blossoms already beginning to scatter;
the trillium, its three petaled white flowers
exquisitely tinged with purple as they fall. 

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