Laments for Japan

Today is the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The fragile blossoms are at their peak. Backlit by dawn, the flowers burst into flame. Tonight they will drop with the snow flurries. The festival is more subdued this year in keeping with the natural disasters and nuclear devastation through which Japan (and the world) are suffering.

The cover of the March 28, 2011 issue of The New Yorker is adorned by a “Dark Spring” in Japan. But before the artwork went to print, artist Christoph Niemann said  he was suffering a creative dilemma. “I realized that there is no way a drawing that depicts the devastation, can come close to the heart-wrenching and bizarre photos I’ve seen everywhere,” Niemann reflected.

He blended his admiration for Japanese ink drawings, and came up with with the cover concept above. “The quiet beauty of plum blossoms mixed with the radiation symbol would make an eery and appropriate metaphor for the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.”

I decided to read a few of the elder Japanese poets in commemoration of the day. Here are a few tender lines from Matsuo Basho (1644-1694):

A village without bells–
how do they live?
spring dusk.

*

Early fall–
the sea and the rice fields
all one green.

*

The spring we don’t see–
on the back of a hand mirror
a plum tree in flower.

*

Not this human sadness,
cuckoo,
but your solitary cry.

*

More than ever I want to see
in these blossoms at dawn
the god’s face.

(Translations by Robert Hass)

Creek Art: Stone Bees Build Hive

I took this photo on Friday of this week in Rock Creek Park in D.C. Inspired by Joe Ross’s wonderful winter picture on his blog header, I thought I’d take a walk in the sparse woods. Something caught my eye down in the creek. Stunning. I drive the same route on Broad Branch Road through the Park every Friday morning and pass this spot each time. I’ve never seen this object before. Maybe the frozen white creek water made it stand out. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there last Friday.

Stone bees by Rose Marie Berger Jan 2009
Stone bees by Rose Marie Berger Jan 2009

Apparently, someone has been busy creating amid the long stark shadows of the maples and oaks. It’s either a winter hive made by stone bees or the little people from the Emerald Isle are practicing their corbeling to make a monastic hut. Blessings on the artist practicing creek art. I think there are some other random acts of art happening in the woods of Rock Creek. If you spot them, send me a photo.

Park Regent’s Peace Banners

by Rose Marie Berger

For many years, I’ve enjoyed this tradition of the Park Regent Apartments at the intersection of Park Road and Mt. Pleasant Street in Washington, D.C. From the buildings prime location, the owners hang bright blue banners with the word for peace emblazoned in white font in a dozen different languages.

Out of pure curiosity, I called the Park Regent Apartments to ask about the history of hanging these peace banners. The very helpful property manager, Art Buildman, told me:

“We’ve been doing this for the eight years that I’ve been around here. I’ve been hanging them myself for the last three years. I don’t really know how it got started. I think maybe the Mount Pleasant Citizens Association suggested it. We usually put them up sometime before Christmas and take them down in January. We’ve got a larger size banner that says ‘peace’ in English, but I’m afraid to hang it because I’m afraid I’ll damage the roof by attaching it. I don’t dare hang any longer ones, because of the wind. There used to be banners in red, but we can’t find those. I’ve got a picture of the red banners here in the office that you are welcome to come by and see. “

Personally, I remember seeing longer ones hung from the Park Regent in the 1990s, then there were several years when they didn’t hang them at all. But now the tradition seems firmly back in place. And they now hang them on both buildings in the Park Regent complex. It used to be that they hung only on the building right at the corner. The Mount Pleasant Historical Society says this about the Park Regent (See more about historic Mount Pleasant.):

In 1910 the Park Regent was constructed at the intersection of Park Road and Mount Pleasant Street. The buff brick U-shaped building is imaginatively sited on its difficult trapezoidal site through the extension of one wing. A bold bracketed cornice and paneled brickwork crown the Beaux-Arts style building.

Below are a few more photos of the Park Regent by local photographers:

By NCinDC
By Amber M. Wiley
By Amber M. Wiley

‘Waiting for Real Change’ in Columbia Heights

Sara Stahlberg, an American University student, who blogs at Trust Me: I’m A Reporter, has got a nice piece up about Columbia Heights and the public art installation at 11th and Park Roads NW done by Albus Cavus that I wrote about here. She includes a quote from yours truly:

Columbia Heights resident and author Rose Berger enjoyed what the exhibit represented in terms of the direction of the community.

“The Albus Cavus project with its panels of creative graffiti (as opposed to rage/wound-based graffiti) placed on the construction fence of the abandoned Bi-Rite represent a new generative force in the life of the neighborhood,” she said, explaining also that the “reclaiming of the Bi-Rite by a local green architectural firm committed to Columbia Heights (as opposed to the megalith big box stores that tower over 14th St) seems to have created a renewed affection for the neighborhood and the neighbors.”

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