According to the calendar, today is the first day of spring. Of course, an arbitrary date on a calendar doesn’t necessarily line up with what a body might be experiencing. A friend of mine, the writer Linda Grimes, uploaded a video of the snow gently falling in her front yard this morning. For her and her East coast counterparts, spring feels a bit off. And, of course, out here on the West coast, spring began creeping into being several weeks ago.
Sitting down at my kitchen table this morning, I realized the trees along the creek have leaves on them. I don’t remember there being leaves on them yesterday. But they are certainly there today. The dogwoods in my yard still are leafless and the big maple across the field still is in pre-bud form. But those birches across the way definitely unfurled their leaves in the past few days.
How did I miss the leaves unfurling? They aren’t that far from my window and I’ve certainly been waiting expectantly for them to stretch their leaves towards the sun.
There are actually several logical reasons for my having missed the event. I’m near-sighted and even with my glasses, tiny leaves across a field are a bit hard to see. I haven’t sat at my table in this way since last Monday and perhaps they hadn’t leafed out yet.
But more likely, I missed those leaves unfurling because I was busy doing other things and forgot to notice. Because, honestly, the passage of time is a subtle thing that we ignore unless something catches our attention.
However, there is one tree that I have been paying attention to all winter and into the spring.
This photo from early December, 2014 gives you an idea of what my front yard looks like, as well as the big maple across the field.
I love Japanese maples for many reasons – the least of which is their graceful form. Even more than their grace, I enjoy their slow growing, delicate ways. They are a tree that appreciates the passage of time. This is an appreciation that does not come easily to my impatient self.
What this photo doesn’t show is that the tree is actually damaged. When it was transported from the nursery to our lot, several branches were broken off, a jagged reminder of the tree’s fragility.
Our landscaper will replace it, but the dead of winter is not a good time to find Japanese maples. So this little tree graces our front yard, until it goes to a different space and we have a new, unbroken tree.
This winter, as it passed slowly into spring with its unfurling leaves, has been a good time to practice a more zen-like way of life. Truthfully, I am better at thinking about being zen-like than I am at being zen-like. But it is a field of possibility I always return to with hope.
The transition from fall to winter reminded my family again and again how fragile we are. We bend as best we can, but truthfully, we can break and leave a jagged version of our former selves. My father, with whom I have a complicated relationship, is ill and currently hospitalized with pneumonia and heart issues. And while he is not tree, I can’t help but see connections between his health and these trees that surround me, waiting to spring into a new version of themselves. The winter was hard, but spring promises the arrival of better times.
Yesterday, as I left my house to meet my weekly writing group, I noticed that my Japanese maple is being to leaf out. Where there has only been the promise of leaves, there is suddenly proof that while it may be broken, this tree is going to flourish in spite of those two branches.
Those tiny leaves are a promise to keep trying, even though times have not always been easy.
These leaves unfurling parallel my spring in so many ways. As a writer, I have been stuck in the winter of things. And yet, spring has finally come. On Sunday, March 15th, I was offered and I accepted representation by Danielle M. Smith of Red Fox Literary. Having an agent, while not a guarantee of anything, means not being alone in my pursuit of publication. It means that while I’ve been broken and waiting, spring has arrived.
I’m unfurling my leaves and looking forward to what the summer sunshine brings.