This time of year, one of the hidden wonders of downtown Vancouver is the Burrard Street Skytrain station. On the walkway above the ticket level, the cherry trees are blossoming. Overhead, the skyscrapers loom, and the homeless are huddled in blankets less on the sidewalks than a block away, but, on that walkway, both are hidden from view, and you might almost be in the country. As in a classical Chinese garden, the walkway soon makes you forget the urban setting.
Today, I took half an hour from my Saturday errands to enjoy the sight, despite the chill of the day. The cold spring we’ve had so far has stunted the blossoms slightly, but the white-laden branches still managed to leave me with a catch in my throat and an unexpected lightness in my chest. I never notice any particular depression during winter, but the blossoming of the cherry trees – the first signs of spring aside from the blossoming of the broom and the odd hawthorn – never fail to leave me in a hushed awe, and grateful for the sight.
And today, a white-mustached busker on the ticket level was playing Mozart on a violin, his echoing notes providing a plaintive background to the spectacle of the blossoms.
At first, I stood at the top of the stairs to the walkway, alternating my sight between staring down the archway of gnarled branches and blossoms and focusing on the individual blossoms closest to me and their delicate perfection.
In the mid-distance, a bridal party was having pictures taken. Even from a distance, I could see her bare shoulders were red with the cold.
When the bridal party was finished, I began to walk, slowly, and with much turning from side to side and, even once or twice, right around. If I wanted a change from the blossoms, I could gaze down into the garden at the ticket level and see the other flowering trees just coming into bloom.
At the far end, I climbed to street level, and walked back away I came. A few people were thrusting cameras blindly up at the blossoms, apparently hoping for the random luck of a good shot, but no one spoke. Even the two or three couples were taking turns photographing each other were silent and intent, although smiling. I considered a comment or two myself, but decided not to spoil the moment.
On my second circuit, I noticed that the heightened wind created by the skyscraper canyons was starting to shake off some of the petals. They drifted like snowflakes, moving sideways as much as down. They made me think of how short the cherry blossom season is – always too short – and the thought added sadness to the scene that added the beauty of the falling petals.
Finally, the cold of the day drove me towards my journey home. But even the downtown tunnel of the Skytrain and the dinginess of the car I traveled in could only lessen my mood a little. I had had one of the aesthetic highpoints of the season, and I was grateful and still carried much of the mood it created.