Bursting All Over

My house is always a sight for sore eyes when I’ve had a long day.

But now that it is spring, all of my mother’s green thumb handiwork looks especially beautiful. (Even though my eyes literally get sore from all of the allergies.) The tulips that stand so tall, their heads bobbing in the breeze. The pansies, huddled and colored together, their little faces turned to the sun. Then there’s the lavender bush with its symmetrical kisses of blossoms whose scent hangs lazily in the humid air. Everything has been waiting so patiently to pop and now that it has happened, it’s as if they couldn’t wait any longer.

Then there’s the redbuds. In great spirals, the pinkish reddish buds climb the branches, grasping bits of sky. From young saplings to sprawling trees, their display becomes more and more beautiful every year.

Of course, they’re pretty trees. And yes, they add some interest to an otherwise normal front lawn. Sure, they offer plenty of shade.

Yet, I never noticed something about them before tonight. When I was walking up to my house, I happened to pass very close to the nearest, lowest branch. I found that instead of shooting out leaves and blossoms in one cluster, the redbud grows flowers everywhere. Even on a long stretch of bark, small little groupings of buds burst out. Just a random crop here and there, wherever it feels like it.

Besides being incredibly adorable because it looks like the tree simply couldn’t contain itself, it is a perfect reminder for us all to look for beauty where you wouldn’t necessarily find it. In order to do that though, you have to start with yourself.

It doesn’t matter how you are supposed to look or be. Growth can be messy. Sometimes it can mean that you change in places you least expect. Sometimes it means that you change all over and become completely unrecognizable. And even sometimes still, you’ll surprise people by changing in leaps and bounds, like my entire yard did. But you’ll just have to trust that the end result will be beautiful, as it is every spring.

To Kill a Robin

I don’t exactly live in the wilderness, but I certainly don’t live in a concrete jungle. The most common creatures I see on a walk through my neighborhood are deer, songbirds, and the occasional Scottish terrier followed by the traditional senior, suburban citizen.

So, I wasn’t really surprised when walking with my mother recently to find a robin. What was rather intriguing was the fact that it was in the middle of a quiet road and that it let us get ridiculously close to it. Being the adventurers we are, we were thoroughly curious, but we knew that our proximity probably wasn’t a good sign. We knew something had to be wrong with it. Trying to inspect it, we didn’t see anything at first, but we weren’t convinced that it was a healthy omen of spring.

I should also mention at this point that in addition to being adventurers, we are also do-gooders. And we couldn’t let this poor robin sit in the middle of the road. Sure, it was a quiet street, but it was a street nonetheless. We had to figure out how to move the robin out of more danger’s way. It certainly wasn’t afraid of us, but it didn’t react to our incredibly convincing “shooing” gestures either. What could we do?

I finally decided that I would have to pick it up. But just shy of cupping him or her in my bare hands, I took off my shirt. (I had a shirt underneath, you dirty birds). I tried to swaddle him when he started to hop forward. When I went to attempt it again, he moved a couple more inches. By the time that I corralled him to the curb, without having to touch him, a car was patiently waiting for me to finish my half-hearted rescue mission. Time had run out, and this was all that we could do for the creature.

As we started to walk away, I heard my mother conclude that here was something wrong with its wing, so for better or worse, we had to leave it at the side of the road. Like a helicopter parent on the first day of kindergarten, we kept looking over our shoulder as we walked on. It didn’t comfort my nerves or my stomach that I saw plenty of hawks flying over my head as we trudged home, minds turned to the inevitable circle of life.

In addition to being  an adventurer and a do-gooder, I am apparently also a masochist. I returned the next day to the spot, with one eye squinting as if I had eaten something sour, not wanting to see what I thought I would see. No small robin carcass rotting in the sun, though. Once again, I was thoroughly surprised. But this time, I was also overjoyed. I started walking again, a spring in my step.

Until I realized that it could have been scooped up by a hungry, flying predator, with no evidence of a struggle to leave behind. (The reason for my masochism, of course). The thought made me cringe and lose any happiness I felt when I saw the absence of a small corpse.

But then, I slowly realized, as I kept walking, that my happiness was never hinged on whether the robin would survive. It was only about doing what I could to help it, however insignificant to the grand scheme of it all. And I knew that even though my second thought had been rather morbid, it was only my first expression of hope that truly mattered. It was only the fact that I had tried, even though it had been possibly in vain and what I hoped to be true.

Belief is all about what we can’t see. What you choose to believe is completely up to you, especially when there is very little evidence of a foregone conclusion. And so, you define your own happiness or your own sorrow in the very idea of what you believe in.

I didn’t want that robin to die, and I choose to believe that he or she didn’t. I could be wrong, and I could be right. But I can’t prove either. And isn’t that wonderful that it doesn’t matter at all?

Watching Plants Grow

*Recycling an old post* Enjoy!

…is not as boring as you might think.

Now that the weather has hovered slightly higher than freezing for a few days, I’m going to call it: it’s springtime. The sunshine, the light breezes, the soft earth, the green grass; it is here to stay. Which is why we can all take off our mittens and gloves and start to flex our green thumb. What will it be this year? Pansies? Petunias? Portulaca? All of them, if need be!

This winter has been especially hard, so I am especially excited to plant something, but my mom and I always feel this way. My fondest memories are of planting tulip bulbs with her, naming every one so that they would have a better chance at growing. Then when we brought home our Stella, the night-blooming cereus, from my favorite professor, we felt that we had been given the crowning jewel of our garden.

So, why do I love flowers so much? Because they are a lesson in optimism.

Why? Well, have you ever watched a flower grow?

The progress it makes. The heights it reaches. The happiness it provides for others.

But the best part?

How it unyieldingly reaches toward the sun.

Because you can put a flower in a dark room with only the tiniest sliver, the most meager portion of sunlight. And somehow, some way, it has bent completely over backwards to make sure that it is in the path of those rays. Time after time, I have watched my mother’s plants stretch their new shoots toward the sun. So much so that she would have to turn them around so that they would even out, so that they did not become top-heavy from stretching too far to one side.

Now, I know that you are probably already like a flower in many ways. I’m sure you are beautiful. I’m sure you are self-sufficient. I’m sure you have roots. But do you go out of your way to live in the sunshine? Do you do everything you can to make sure that you have what you need to thrive? Do you try to lean into the light even when the darkness surrounds you?

If you don’t, plant a flower this springtime. Let it be your daily reminder. And if you need a serious push, try a cactus. Despite their prickly exterior, they need the most light of all and the least amount of care. (And if you don’t think that’s the best metaphor ever for people in general, then you can leaf.)