Cherry Blossom Festival

Gris: The wisdom of the blossoms

My grandfather taught me how to bait a hook. My kindergarten teacher showed me how to tie my shoes.

I learned the right way to plant a tree from my dad. Mama taught me how to open a book and see the world. My driver’s ed instructor advised me never to trust a blinker.

From a Chinese fortune cookie I learned ... well, never mind. That didn’t quite work out.

And so it has been, life’s wisdom passed along in every person I’ve ever met, every place I’ve ever traveled, every experience I’ve ever had.

Thirty-three years of Cherry Blossom Festivals have taught me plenty, too. The festival brings people together in ways nothing else in our city can. We put aside our differences. We admire the same beautiful trees and share the same glorious sky.

Here are a few lessons I have taken from what is now a generation of festivals.

There are at least 43 acceptable shades of pink. And you may notice at least half the color wheel walking around downtown this weekend. Tutti Frutti is touted as the official pink of the festival. You are likely to see bubble gum pink, Phi Mu rose pink, cotton candy pink, Porky Pig pink, Mary Kay pink, Home Depot attic insulation pink and Elvis 1955 Cadillac pink.

Remember the boys on the back row. We get so caught up in the breathtaking beauty of the cherry blossoms, we often overlook the springtime matinee around us. Azaleas. Dogwoods. Bradford pears. Wisteria. Tulips. Daffodils. Redbuds.

Chill out. It can’t always be 75 degrees and sunny. In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth and a wild month with gusty winds, heavy rains, frosty mornings and sun-kissed afternoons. He called this roller-coaster March.

Food, animals and music are three of life’s common denominators. The festival has them in great abundance.

Love, beauty and international friendship. That has been founder Carolyn Crayton’s theme for the festival from the start. Representatives from dozens of countries have been invited and attended over the years. I have been introduced to Japanese dignitaries and interviewed the mayor of Macon, France. Before the parade last week, I made some new friends from Denmark who stopped by Ocmulgee Traders. A Japanese haiku poet named Kobayashi Issa once wrote: “In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.”

You have permission to be a tourist in your hometown. The festival provides an opportunity to visit attractions and eat in restaurants where you have never darkened the door. Freshen your eyes and broaden your backyard. I promise you don’t have to dress like a tourist to visit the Hay House.

The locals claim “real men wear pink.” I would argue that brave men are behind that pink cloth. It’s not the norm in the men’s department. We get a free pass during the festival. Guys aren’t looking to be fashionistas, only trying to avoid having our manhood questioned.

You’re never too young or too old. On Thursday, I shared the stage at the fashion show with Adalyn Clark, who is a year and a half old. On Friday morning at Central City Park, I watched 97-year-old Leon “Red” Herring, a longtime festival volunteer, ride a two-humped camel named Oscar.

Don’t worry about perfection. Every day is what it is. Fleas come with the dog. Remember these words from “The Last Samurai:” “A perfect cherry blossom is a rare thing. You can spend your whole life looking for one, and it will not be a wasted life.”

Contact Gris at 744-4275.