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Introducing hanami: the Japanese tradition that'll make you fall in love with nature.

'When cherry blossoms scatter ... no regrets.' — Kobayashi Issa

Introducing hanami: the Japanese tradition that'll make you fall in love with nature.

When it comes to viewing cherry blossoms, timing is everything.

Get the timing of your viewing party wrong, and all you'll see in the park are little red buds — or worse, a ground littered with the pink "snow" of fallen petals.

But get it right, and well ... just take a look.


Image by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

Cherry blossoms bloom all over the world every spring.

If you live in Vancouver, Canada, Washington, D.C., or one of these other cities, you can see them right now at the end of March. (Go! Quickly!)

But in Japan, cherry blossoms are an even bigger deal. Their arrival generates national celebration.

The soft pink blooms, called sakura by the Japanese, only live for about 10 days every year. In Tokyo, their annual bloom usually occurs around the end of March, signaling the official start of spring.

Image by Junko Kimura/Getty Images.

Watching sakura blooms — often in the company of good friends and good food — is called hanami. And the Japanese take it very, very seriously.

During the 10- to 14-day period, hundreds of thousands of people flock to parks and gardens to enjoy picnics and gatherings and bask in the brief beauty of these bountiful blossoms.

Image by Junko Kimura/Getty Images.

Some dress up for the occasion.

Image by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

Others create art in honor of the season.

Sakura is one of the most popular symbols in Japanese culture, immortalized in art, stories, and this festive ice sculpture. Image by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

The hanami tradition is said to have begun during Japan's Nara period, when aristocrats would pass time in the spring admiring ume (plum) blossoms.

Over time, people began to associate hanami more with sakura blossoms, making springtime offerings to the Shinto spirits within the cherry trees in hopes of a good harvest to come.

These cats aren't part of a traditional offering, unless your religion is Instagram. Image by Junko Kimura/Getty Images.

In later years, Emperor Saga would hold feasts for his imperial court under the sakura blooms, drinking sake and listening to sakura-inspired poetry.

By the start of the Edo period, all levels of Japanese society were celebrating cherry blossom season.

Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Modern hanami parties don't have to happen during the day. Evening gatherings — when the blossom-laden branches are lit by lanterns or soft candlelight — are also very popular (and pretty magical).

Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Because even on a rainy evening, sakura blossoms put on a show.

Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Though, to be fair, it can get a little crowded.

In 2015, a record 19.73 million overseas tourists visited cherry blossom hotspots in at least 18 Japanese cities.

Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Demand for space is so high, some companies wanting to throw hanami parties might send employees down hours before to reserve a spot.

Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

One of the reasons cherry blossoms draw so much attention in Japanese culture is their natural impermanence.

Like all flowers, cherry blossoms are doomed to wither eventually. In Japanese culture this is seen as a metaphor for the ephemerality of life, an idea embodied in the unique concept of mono no aware.

Image by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images.

"Mono no aware" loosely translates to English as "an empathy toward things." It's an acknowledgement that all things in life (even life itself) are temporary.

If this realization makes you sad, that's OK. It is supposed to. Part of mono no aware is acknowledging the soft sadness that comes along with our lives. For the sakura blossoms to bloom, they must also die. It is meant to be a wistful sadness, not an overwhelming one.

Image by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

I like to think of mono no aware, and sakura blossoms in general, as a reminder for all of us to be fully present in life's moments as they happen.

To savor the beautiful, the sad, and the fleeting — as both we and they will eventually float away.

"The cure for / this raucous world ... / late cherry blossoms"17th century Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa

Terence Power / TikTok

A video of a busker in Dublin, Ireland singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" to a young boy with autism is going viral because it's just so darn adorable. The video was filmed over a year ago by Terence Power, the co-host of the popular "Talking Bollox Podcast."

It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

"But I recently made TikTok and said I'd share it on that and I'm so glad I did now!" he continued.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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Each year that I teach the book "1984" I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime under the guise of the "common good."

I run a simulation in which I become a dictator. I tell my students that in order to battle "Senioritis," the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has "been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success." I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is "Senioritis."

Photo by Diana Leygerman, used with permission.

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via Ken Lund / Flickr

The dark mountains that overlook Provo, Utah were illuminated by a beautiful rainbow-colored "Y" on Thursday night just before 8 pm. The 380-foot-tall "Y" overlooks the campus of Brigham Young University, a private college owned by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), commonly known as Mormons.

The display was planned by a group of around 40 LGBT students to mark the one-year anniversary of the university sending out a letter clarifying its stance on homosexual behavior.

"One change to the Honor Code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on 'Homosexual Behavior.' The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code, " the school's statement read.

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