The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is in Full Bloom!

Images by Allison Blake

I first learned about the Japanese tradition of Cherry Blossom festivals, or Hanami, during an undergraduate course in the philosophy of aesthetics. I heard about how everyone would take time out from their busy schedules to sit under the trees and immerse themselves in the beauty of the pink blossoms. We discussed how the beauty of the blossoms has as much to do with their fleeting presence as to do with their exquisite appearance. This awareness of the transience of the blossoms themselves and the happiness we derive from their splendor is described in the Japanese aesthetic term “Mono no aware” or “an empathy toward things”. This is an enduring concept in Japanese cultural and aesthetic traditions.

I have always looked forward to and admired the Cherry Blossom season, which is particularly rich in Vancouver thanks to many trees received as gifts from Japan. My parents have a cherry blossom tree that for years served as an exceptional climbing tree and a fortress of sorts. I remember climbing it while it was in bloom, and how I could be completely concealed within the cloud of soft blossoms. Now, every year the first budding cherry trees fill me with anticipation for when warmer, sunnier days will slowly but steadily start to beat back the gray damp walks to and from the Skytrain on my daily commute. I know that the cherry trees will only bloom for a short time, and by the time they are gone, I will be enjoying the warmth of the sun on my skin once again!

Until I learned about the Japanese traditions surrounding this season, I had never really considered how brief a time we really have to enjoy these particularly pretty trees in the span of a year. Learning more about the aesthetic and philosophical traditions surrounding the trees deepened my appreciation of these natural art forms. I can’t help but consider how their slow emergence, or sometimes sudden appearance, transform a familiar landscape much the same way a piece of public art can change the experience of a familiar place.

The fluffy blossoms spanning every shade between fuchsia and white are even more moving when grouped together. There are countless streets lined with the blossoms and the VCBF website has 900 suggestions of places to visit and walks to take to appreciate the blossoms in all their glory. They even include updates of when a particularly popular area is no longer in bloom so that you don’t end up disappointed.

My particular favourite  spot is one I visit 5 times a week, twice a day. The entrance to Burrard Sky Train station is a tiered garden lined with rows of cherry blossoms and Magnolias. On nice days, the sun shines through the blossoms illuminating them like a forest of lights! As the buds continue to multiply, so do the number of people who stop to take photos, or simply to sit beneath them and bask in their magnificence for a while. I highly suggest you do the same. It is simply breathtaking. It is one of the best art shows of the year.

City Chase – Team Rankings

Riding Dinosaurs

We all wish we could ride dinosaurs.

City Chase is coming up and we here at the Gumboot are all pretty excited. I’m excited for a few reasons. First, I said “yes” to join in on this little competition before having a full grasp of what I’ll be required to do. Run around the city? Check. Engage in humourous challenges? Check.  Help promote the (so far) unsullied name of Mitsubishi? Check. Ride dinosaurs through the mean streets of Vancouver? I hope so.

But even if I don’t get to ride dinosaurs, that’s ok. Do you know why? Because I get to compete with my good friend and Gumboot co-editor John Horn. We’re one of three teams the Gumboot has raised for this competition. Teams are some of the greatest things about adventures. That’s why Batman and Robin had so much fun fighting crime. This time, John and I will be competing against 400 other City Chase teams spread around the Downtown core. But more importantly, we’ll be competing against our fellow Gumbooters (in a friendly way). With that in mind, I thought I’d crib a very modest and basic guide for any handicappers out there looking to wager, which of the three teams are going to finish first. Some of you may say I’m horribly biased. But that’s for you to accusingly say in the comments.

Team John and Kurt

Advantages: They are fast – ninja fast. John’s really competitive and Kurt’s curmudgeonly nature will allow him to soldier through all sorts of physical test and challenges like his forefather’s did in Stalingrad. John is especially cagey having spent a long period of his youth as a Pirate’s fifth mate. Kurt’s controversial nature will allow him to “think outside the Mitsubishi box”. John doesn’t mind cheating and Kurt doesn’t mind that John doesn’t mind cheating.

Disadvantages: None known to man. If you think you know any, you’re probably wrong, so keep them to yourself.

Team Michelle and Stew

Advantages: Michelle is lovely and brilliant. Stew’s nuanced and analytical perspective will only serve to aid their team’s quest for glory. Michelle likes puzzles and challenges. Stew threw out his back, so he may arrive at the race equipped with some sort of cyborg technology that will allow him to fly and run like the Million Dollar Man.

Batman and Robin

The dynamic duo.

Disadvantages: Stew through out his back this week. Enough said. Oh and Michelle’s actually a double agent working for Team John and Kurt.

Godfrey and Mike

Advantages: The recent birth of Mike’s child has allowed him to operate for long periods of time without sleep. His baby-tested stamina will go a long way. Godfrey’s Bay-model good looks could be used to charm unsuspecting young female City Chase organizers. Mike has a lot of tattoos and looks hardcore – other city chase contestants will avoid fucking with his team. Godfrey’s Mini car is ideal for moving from place to place in the downtown urban environment.

Disadvantages: Godfrey’s nautical knowledge and understanding of the seas will not help in the slightest on land. Mike’s curious and introspective nature will lead him on long non-City Chase related tangents losing the team valuable time.

My prediction falls solidly with Team Kurt and John. But let’s see what the rest of you have to say.