At work today I had to make a phone call to someone in California. When she found out I was calling from Virginia, she told me she used to live in this area. “It must be beautiful there right now,” she said wistfully, “Are the cherry blossoms out? I miss them so much!”
I can’t imagine not being able to look forward to cherry blossoms every spring. They mean more to me with each passing year. I associate them with my mother and with hope.
After years of traveling back and forth across the Pacific, my gypsy parents finally settled down in their house in Virginia a couple years ago. They arrived in the middle of a particularly harsh winter. My mother had been sick for years with primary amyloidosis, a disease that almost took her life. The long flight from Korea had exhausted her and it was taking much longer than usual to recover from jet lag. My mother realized that she would never be able to make the arduous journey across the ocean again. She was happy to be closer to her family in Virginia, but profoundly sad to know that she had left behind her life in Korea forever.
She became so depressed, we were worried about her. When spring finally came, we were hopeful that this most beautiful of all seasons would lift her spirits. There’s a cherry tree right outside her bedroom window, and she fretfully waited and waited for the buds to unfurl. All around the neighborhood, other cherry trees were blooming, but my mother’s tree stubbornly refused to blossom. “Why won’t it bloom?” she kept asking. I had many anxious conversations with my sister about that cherry tree, all ending with that very same refrain. We were so desperate for my mother to be happy, we would have opened each blossom by hand, if we could have. The tree took its sweet time, but it finally burst forth in the most lavish and exuberant display of ravishing pink flowers we had ever seen…
I called my mom a few days ago.
“Is your cherry tree blooming, Mom?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered serenely, “It’s beautiful.”
by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.