Last week, I went on a blossom hunting walk around my local area. Apples, cherries, plums, and other trees in gardens and parks were bursting into clouds of white and pink blossom like candyfloss. Today I noticed that the first petals were beginning to fall.
The blossom bloom is my favourite part of Spring, a glorious show of colour against the backdrop of fresh green leaves just curling out of buds, and the brilliant blue of a Springtime sky.
I don’t think I ever quite realised until this year how short that bloom is, a few weeks usually, possibly a month depending on what species of trees are in your area, as some non-native varieties grown specifically for their blossom bloom later and longer than many native tree species. While I notice and love the blossom each year, there’s something about the quarantine – with it’s attendant restrictions on going outside and exercising – that has made them more special, more significant this year.
Blossom, in particular the cherry blossom or Sakura, is a major event in Japan, with whole towns organising Hanami, blossom-viewing picnics and events. Many of these are facing uncertainty this year, due to the need to restrict social gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Yet the blossom still flowers. And then the petals still begin to fall.
Because of their short flowering period, sakura are seen in Japan as being related to the concept of Mono no aware, a term which indicates an awareness of impermanence and transience, and hints at a wistful sadness at the passing of life. Mono no aware is not just about being saddened by the ephermal nature of life, but it is also about appreciating life while we have it. Blossom represents both the fleeting nature of beauty and also the process of renewal in nature, as they return each year and mark the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring.
Watching the blossom this year reminds me that despite the very real fears and anxieties about our human world, nature is still here, and there is still beauty and wonder and magic to be found in the other-than-human community. We may be confined in our homes for much of the time, and we may be in a state of great upheaval and loss, but still the blossom flowers.
The first few petals falling to the ground also remind me that nothing lasts forever. Be it joy or sorrow, wonder or fear, life or death. All is impermanent, all is change. This crisis is awful, yes, and I don’t want to minimise its impact. Thousands of people have died and thousands more have lost loved ones, and it seems like it will continue. But it will not last forever. All things pass.
Our lives are like the blossom; they bloom so beautifully and they pass so soon. This makes it all the more important to find those moments of beauty, of wonder, of joy and hope and magic and enchantment wherever and whenever we can.
We do not need to re-enchant the world, for the world is already enchanted. We need to re-enchant our lives.
Right now, the blossom is in bloom, poised elegantly on the delicate edge between flower and fall. Soon it will be gone, and in its place leaves, transforming sunlight into energy, and then fruit with all its richness and ripeness. Then the trees will sleep again, ready to begin their great and complex dance as the wheel of the year turns once more.
Right now, we are alive.
Even if everything else seems meaningless, in that simple truth, there is all the meaning we ever need.