“Arabella, you can carry the picnic mugs,” says Mom.
“Willoughby, you can carry the picnic plates.”
“Dad and I will carry the snacks, the treats, and the juice,” says Mom.
“And the blanket,” says Dad.
“Where are we going, Mom?” asks Arabella.
“What are we doing, Dad?” asks Willoughby.
“We’re going to Stanley Park to have a picnic party under the cherry blossom trees,” says Mom.
“We’re going to have a hanami under the sakura,” says Dad.
“Which one?” asks Arabella.
Mom and Dad laugh.
“They’re the same thing,” says Mom. “A hanami is a picnic party under a cherry blossom tree.”
“And a sakura is a cherry blossom tree that’s so big we can picnic under its canopy and enjoy the beauty of its blossoms,” says Dad.
“And marvel at the arrival of spring,” says Mom.
The family walks toward the park. The flowering plum trees lining the road are changing colour—bronze leaves are mingling with clusters of single pink blossoms.
Tiny chickadees with their black and white faces flit from trunk to branch to bough to post, singing cheerfully all the while.
A pair of Canada geese flies overhead, honking loudly.
The family enters Stanley Park at Pooh Corner Day Care.
Willoughby bounds down to Lost Lagoon and startles some ducks that fly up into the air. Before long, the mallards settle back into the lagoon again, putting their heads in the water, searching for food.
“There are lots of cherry trees to choose from here,” says Arabella.
“Perhaps one of these,” says Dad.
“Or that one over there,” he says again.
Willoughby runs past the weeping willows, which are greening up with their spring leaves and long catkins, and past the black locust, which won’t be leafing out for a long time.
“What about here,” says Willoughby.
He’s looking up at a large, wide-spreading cherry tree.
“I can see high up,” he says, jumping excitedly beside the tree. Willoughby has such springy legs that he can jump up really high.
“This is a good choice,” says Mom.
She throws the blanket into the air, still holding on to one side. The blanket settles gently over the grass and moss and cherry blossom petals below the tree.
Dad puts out the sandwiches, cookies, fruit, health bars, and juice. Willoughby puts out the plates. Arabella puts out the picnic mugs.
“What did you call this kind of picnic, Dad? A something-mee?”
“A hanami. It’s a Japanese word. I’ve been working with a man from Japan. He tells me all about their customs, like having a picnic party under the cherry trees.”
Mom is looking at the creamy-white flowers in the tree. “The blossoms are double and they hang in bunches. The leaves are still very small. They’re hairy on the leaf margins. I wonder what kind of cherry tree it is.”
“I’ll look it up on my tree app,” says Dad.
“It looks as though it’s a Mount Fuji village cherry, a ‘Shirotae’.”
“I’m jumping up to the top of Mount Fuji,” says Willoughby, and he jumps up high again.
“I like this cherry tree,” says Arabella. “Its petals are so frilly and there are hundreds of them!”
“Thousands,” says Willoughby.
“These flowers will attract bees and flies,” says Mom.
“And people,” says Arabella. “Do butterflies ever land on the cherry blossoms? A cherry tree would look so pretty covered with butterflies.”
Dad searches on his smart phone to find out. “Yes, they do,” he says.
Arabella is eating a cherry tomato when she spots a heron preening itself and stretching its neck tall.
It’s sitting on a branch of a fallen tree.
Dad lies down to have a snooze. The sun is almost warm on his face.
Mom wanders around taking photos of all sorts of growing things.
Willoughby has already eaten two of Mom’s peanut butter sandwiches.
He explores a path along the shore.
Arabella skips over to her Mom, She’s holding her favourite stuffy, Mr. Purple Beak. Today, Mr. Purple Beak is out of his cage and flying free. Arabella is teaching him all about cherry trees.
“What was the other Japanese word Dad used? A word for the tree?”
“Sakura,” says Mom.
“Sakura! Sakura! That’s such a pretty word,” says Arabella. “Is this cherry tree a sakura, Mom?” she asks.
“Yes, it is, Arabella,” says her Mom.
Arabella teaches Mr. Purple Beak.
“These are the petals. They’re creamy white. See how many petals grow in one flower!
“And here are the leaves. They’re green.
“And this is the trunk. See its stripes?”
Mr. Purple Beak looks.
“Now, say this: hu-naa-mee.”
Arabella listens while Mr. Purple Beak repeats the word.
“And now this: sa-koo-ra.” Again, Arabella listens while Mr. Purple Beak says the word.
Willoughby emerges from some brush beside the lake. He’s covered with leaves and twigs and earth.
“The Canada geese were fighting each other,” he says, breathless with excitement.
“I expect there’s a nest on that island,” says Mom. “And in that nest are some eggs, with goslings about to hatch. It’s another sign of spring.”
When it’s time to go home, everyone pitches in, packing the leftovers, wrapping the dirty dishes, and folding the blanket.
Fluffy white clouds float along in the sky as the family walk home
“We had a hanami, Mr. Purple Beak,” says Arabella. Mr. Purple Beak listens intently.
“Under Mount Fuji,” adds Willoughby.