Cherry Blossom Time

Dedicated to my best friend, who laughingly issued the challenge of "Cho and cherry blossoms." I'm not sure this is what she expected, but we shall see. Apparently in fic Cho has become my observer, and as such, something like this from me was probably inevitable given that we always see Cho reading classic literature on the show.

I own nothing in this fic, not anything from the Mentalist and not any of the other quoted material (all of which is in italics).


One bright Saturday morning in early spring Kimball Cho made his way slowly towards his destination, a café in the centre of town. He was in no hurry. After all, he had plenty of time before lunch and it was a beautiful day. After weeks of rainy and cold weather spring had finally sprung. For the past few days Sacramento had been enjoying beautiful warm weather. Plants were beginning to bloom, including most noticeably the fruit trees. As Cho turned the corner he was struck by the newly flowering cherry trees lining the street.

He'd always loved cherry trees, a fact he was sure would surprise many of his colleagues. The white and pink flowering trees had been a favourite of his grandmother. She'd loved to tell him stories about them, from traditional fairy tales, to true stories she'd heard throughout her life, to explanations of the symbolism of the flowers in different cultures. He'd eaten it up, could remember many of them even now. In fact, he could probably trace his own love of stories to sitting in his grandmother's lap listening as she told him about the flowers in her garden. It had sparked his lifelong love of reading, through which he'd learned even more of the cherry tree's stories. Even though from a purely aesthetic point of view many of the trees in springtime were equally lovely, his personal favourite would always be the cherry tree in bloom.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now,
-A.E. Houseman

Cherry trees were beautiful; anyone with at least one functioning eye could see that. He remembered the day before when they'd been interviewing a suspect outside a ritzy country club when Van Pelt had noticed a tree in full bloom. She'd been charmed by the flowers overflowing from the tree's branches and had idly wished for her camera. In the face of her excitement Cho hadn't bothered to enlighten her about the traditional (and somewhat depressing) Japanese symbolism of the tree, that of the temporary nature of human life. After all, cherry blossoms bloomed beautifully for maybe two weeks a year, and then were gone, falling from the tree more quickly than they'd appeared. Van Pelt wasn't looking for anything beyond being able to appreciate natural beauty. He doubted anything serious enough had ever happened in her relatively sheltered life to make her personally or intimately aware of anything deeper. No, it was unlikely that Grace had ever had the occasion to dwell on her own mortality.

You boldly settle all important questions, but tell me, dear, isn't it because you're young, because you haven't had time to suffer till you settled a single one of your questions? You boldly look forward, isn't it because you cannot foresee or expect anything terrible, because so far life has been hidden from your young eyes? - Act 3, The Cherry Orchard

Besides, with her admirable, and sometimes enviable, unshakeable faith in a life after death, the young agent had the comfort of knowing that her own existence would never be transient.

But the cherry blossom had much to teach, and many had learned its lessons the hard way. Jane would in part understand the cherry blossom, Cho decided. The older man knew all about the fleeting nature of life; he'd learned too late to value what you had, because there was no guarantee that it would be there forever.

Oh, my orchard! After the dark autumns and the cold winters, you're young again, full of happiness, the angels of heaven haven't left you. . . . If only I could take my heavy burden off my breast and shoulders, if I could forget my past! - Act 1, The Cherry Orchard

But understanding that a life could be abruptly cut off was as far as Jane had gotten. He'd been confronted head on with the transience of human life, and chosen to live trapped in his past, forever mourning what he'd lost and devoting what was left of his life to avenging wrongs committed against himself and his loved ones, never really living.

For it's so clear that in order to begin to live in the present we must first redeem the past - Act 2, The Cherry Orchard

Cho realized, in order to ever be happy Jane would have to somehow come to terms with what Red John had done to his family. And given enough time, he supposed it was possible that Jane might be able to do that without destroying his own life. Certainly it was that type of optimism that allowed Lisbon to sleep at night.

But then Lisbon's relationship with the cherry tree was different than that of the troubled consultant she supervised.

Oh, my childhood, days of my innocence! In this nursery I used to sleep; I used to look out from here into the orchard. Happiness used to wake with me every morning, - Act 1, The Cherry Orchard

Although she almost never talked about it, before her mother had died Lisbon had had a happy childhood. Really, it had been almost ideal based on what he did know, growing up the older sister to two younger brothers with two loving, functional parents. Sure things hadn't been perfect. There'd been disagreements, the odd serious fight between her parents, and the family had by no means been wealthy, but from what he'd gathered they'd been reasonably happy.

And then, one fateful day, disaster had struck, and with the sounds of brakes screeching on wet pavement, through no fault of her own, Lisbon's world had come crashing down around her ears.

As a matter of fact, independently of everything else, I must express my feeling, among other things, that fate has been as pitiless in her dealings with me as a storm is to a small ship - Act 2, The Cherry Orchard

But unlike Jane, Lisbon's reason to live hadn't come from earning her revenge, but from protecting what was left. She'd had to be strong for her brothers, to get them through, and so she'd gotten herself through as well, the only way she knew how, by simply refusing to break. The event may have in part defined her life and solidified her role as a caregiver and protector, but she'd gotten through it. She knew that a life could end quickly, and so was making sure that hers mattered. Cho wasn't always sure if she was happy exactly, but he figured most of the time she was probably content. She got to spend her life catching criminals to keep others around her safe, and she was damn good at it.

And although he'd never heard Lisbon comment on them, he was sure if he'd asked her, she'd tell him the cherry trees blooming outside the CBI offices were lovely.

Rigsby had never said anything to him about cherry trees either, not that Cho had ever expected him to. To be honest, he wasn't even sure if Rigsby had even noticed the cherry trees. Sure the agent appreciated beauty, watching him stare at Van Pelt all day would tell you that. But Rigsby was also very practical, and not the most sentimental of men. Cho was fairly certain that unless they benefitted him somehow, Rigsby wouldn't notice the difference between a cherry tree and a maple. He led a simpler life.

To cherry blooms I come,
and under the blossoms go to sleep -
no duties to be done!

On the other hand, Rigsby would definitely identify with the traditional Chinese symbolism of the cherry. To the Chinese the cherry blossom represented power, feminine beauty and love. Even if he wasn't sentimental, Rigsby was romantic, he wanted to settle down with the wife and two kids, white picket fence, and probably also a large dog of some kind. And he definitely appreciated the beauty of the female form (again see Van Pelt, Grace). Of course Rigsby appreciated much more than that about women. In all the time that he'd known him Cho had never seen him treat a woman with anything less than the utmost respect.

But where did Cho himself fall on the issue of the cherry tree? Probably somewhere right in the middle of his colleagues. Sure he had his demons, they all did; he'd certainly had more than a few sleepless nights after his time in the military. But then, the military had also given a crash course in appreciating the value of your life. Watching your colleagues die mere metres from where you're standing will do that to a person. Despite that, he wasn't particularly tormented by his past. He'd come to terms with it, he believed that what he'd done had been a necessary evil in the service of his country. He tried to take his own life one day at a time and appreciated the beauty of the cherry trees, not only when they were blooming, but all year round.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
-A.E. Houseman

He grinned when his lunch date met him at the door of the restaurant, kissing him on the cheek in greeting. He had to admit that really all aspects of the cherry blossom appealed to him. He could put the finite nature of his own life in perspective, but he was certainly also able to appreciate feminine beauty. Opening the door for his companion he followed her inside, turning his attention to the story she was telling him, as opposed to the one told by the tree at his back.


Quoted material is from Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, translated by Julius West, from A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Houseman and from a traditional Japanese Haiku.

Hope this didn't turn out to be too much of a writing exercise!