Like many other Jersey knitters, I spent Saturday and Sunday frolicking in the welcome sunshine and sudden warm temperatures: I hopped on the bike and pedaled off to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Branch Brook Park in Newark (Exit 148). It's about 20 miles roundtrip, with two killer hills, one each way, and several [cough] inclines. If I can take the hills without wheezing too much, I have a celebratory ice cream. Er, no sweets for me this weekend.
This time of year, the park is affectionately known as Cherryblossomland. Signs tend to read Cherry Blossomland or even Cherry Blossom Land, which I suppose is easier to fit into available space.
The Second River, a branch of the Passaic River, and the Meadow Brook flow through Branch Brook Park. While the water in the streams was the highest I've seen after last week's nor'easter and there were some muddy patches, the park was not flooded. Strange. I've seen the park circuit roads inundated with lower water in the streams.
I was hoping to take some photos of my pink sock with one of my favorite trees, but others got there first.
It's always fun watching wedding parties carefully picking their way across the soft ground. Stiletto heels will sink in and everyone is cautious of their finery. Pale petal colors or saturated sky colors seem to be the most popular theme colors. This group – flower girls, junior bridesmaids, bridesmaids, maid of honor, plus numerous relatives not visible – was exceptionally well-coordinated. The bride (obscured by tree trunk – sorry) wore a confection that reminded me of the Italian Alps dresses in last year's Torino Olympics opening ceremony.
Last year in the same spot I saw a photographer stopping passersby and giving them the treatment – quick hair and makeup, then glam shots. (Abuela, out of frame, was minding the baby.) I was interested to see the clever use of silver auto shades to diffuse the direct sunlight and to reflect light back onto the subject, who was exceptionally pretty.
So no sock photo, but here I am with another favorite tree (I'm camera shy). If you stand inside the pendant branchlets, it's like being behind a cherry blossom waterfall. Notice the new planting in the foreground.
Other favorite trees were apparently in their last bloom season and still others were already gone. An aggressive park renewal program is under way, which includes creative destruction. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of impermanence – fleeting beauty – and even trees have their time. The fresh stumps revealed both beautiful, fragrant wood and deadly rot.
However glorious the spectacle of nature or touching the circle of life, the longest lines were not for the prime photo locations (or the restrooms), but for the giant puffy slides. I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that the seedy-looking cardinal is supposed to be a parrot. I didn't figure out what the yellow things next to the parrot are until I got home. Too busy being amused by the pile of shoes, I guess.
The Cherry Blossom Festival includes demonstrations and entertainment and lots of tasty food, too. On Sunday of the festival, the southbound park drive is closed, which makes parking a challenge, but bicycling through the park is especially enjoyable. All that's lacking is an annual festival T-shirt.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, atop a bluff with a fine view of NYC, anchors the south end of the park. Cherry trees grow on the bluff, and some years the stone ediface appears to float in cherry blossoms (this year, not so much). The impressive cathedral, one of the biggest in the U.S., is well worth a look from the outside. Visitors are welcome, although proper attire is required to gawk inside.
I love pink petals against the spring sky. Cherry blossom petals are translucent and glow ever-so-slightly in strong sunlight, a quality beguiling to the human eye, but not easily photographed. When the wind tosses the branches, ripples of pink light and shadow move across the park. Ah!
To round out the Earth Day weekend, I'm off to a lecture this evening on local solutions to global warming. The directions mention where to park cars, but not if bicycle parking is available. Huh. Must remember to bring a flashlight – there's nothing so tedious as fumbling with a bicycle combination lock in the dark.