Hanami in Brooklyn
Natural beauty is sparse in the city. The green space available to New Yorkers is vital, and in Spring the scene suddenly bursts into polychrome. The Japanese tradition of Hanami is the appreciation of this period of blossoming. Hanami is akin to the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s idea of aesthetic perception, “sustaining the operation of the powers of cognition without ulterior intention. We dwell in the contemplation of the beautiful because this contemplation reinforces and reproduces itself.” In this spirit the photographer Shuheng Ji focused her lens on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a perfect place for renewal. Taking a liberty, we add to these images words from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, who lived and worked for so long in Brooklyn, a consummate naturalist and a man of wonder.
Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
Now wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.
To the garden the world anew ascending,
Potent mates, daughters, sons, preluding,
The love, the life of their bodies, meaning and being,
Curious here behold my resurrection after slumber,
The revolving cycles in their wide sweep having brought me again,
Amorous, mature, all beautiful to me, all wondrous,
My limbs and the quivering fire that ever plays through them,
for reasons, most wondrous,
Existing I peer and penetrate still,
Content with the present, content with the past,
By my side or back of me Eve following,
Or in front, and I following her just the same.
City of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have liv’d and sung in your midst
will one day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you, not the shifting tableaus, your spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows with goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn’d persons, or bear my share in the soiree or feast;
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own – these repay me,
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.
All photographs by Shuheng Ji © 2013. More of Shu’s beautiful work can be seen at www.sjiphotography.com.