Several years back when living in London, we went on a February holiday. When we returned a week later, we opened the door on the stone wall to find a yard filled with blossoms. What we previously thought was a scraggly, scrappy bit of lawn was actually a field of saffron crocus that hadn’t yet bloomed. What an astonishing sight! It felt truly magical, as if we had been visited by fairies. How wonderful to learn how wrong we’d been about the judgment we made of that lawn. Something much more extravagantly delightful was given us instead in spite of our misconception.
The crocus were followed by a parade of other flowers. In Regents Park aged cherry trees ballooned sprays of white flowers, and along our urban neighborhood streets cherry trees lifted tender pink cheeks, street lamps illuminating sprays of flowers as if trying to enter a painting. Except for a few months of the year, flowers seemed to be everywhere in London, sending out their gentle greetings to whoever passed by. Flowers are such inclusive, generous folk, who seem to think everyone needs a bit of beauty in their lives, and they give it freely.
London’s cherry blossoms turned into daffodils crowding walkways in Regents Park along paths, and clearings. Blossoms are the dreams of trees and plants, the result of winter’s cold work, the absence of sun, the ongoing unseen, quiet effort of renewal. Whether by the sweat of the brow, the effort of the brain or the liquid pressure inside cells at the base of waiting blossoms, everything that blooms does so with effort. Li-Young Lee, in his poem, “From Blossoms”, describes peaches he eats as a child, fruit picked from bended bows, and ladened with dust. Eating the peach he savors the flavor, the orchard it came from, and the shade he sat in as he eats the fruit.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
Flowers lift our hearts and delight our spirits. Spring after spring, the blossoms return. Like plants that need certain nutrients to bloom, humans. too, need nurturing for their lives to flower. There is not just one spring in a life, though, not just one season to bloom. On our property here in California we have a peach tree. The tree is ailing and we’re not sure how to help it. Bent and lichen covered with barely a trunk to stand on, every year we think it’s bound to die. But every year it blossoms. Every year the sweetest buds break forth.
I have a pair of slippers with blossoms on the soles. When I walk in them, I think of how they leave an invisible imprint of flowers where my feet move across the floor–blossoms with every footprint. I wish to live in the way that Thich Nhat Hahn states when he writes, “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.”
In a world waiting for spring, longing for renewal and beauty to rise, walking across the world with the intention of leaving behind a trail of blossoms for those along the way is something worth living for, something worth doing. The Navajo prayer says it well,
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful…
May our presence and our words be a door for others opening into a garden filled with the gentleness of flowers.