Outside our kitchen window is a flowering crab apple that the girls and I planted for a "Mother's Day Garden" several years ago along with several other shrubs, plants and flowers. After the past few years of floods and being trampled by dogs, drought and freezing, and soil that needs amending, the only thing left from the garden is the crab apple. The azaleas were not suited for the light or drainage of the site. The flowers were too delicate to survive being rolled over by playful dogs. But every spring, standing over the sink, I look out the kitchen window in the morning, drinking coffee out of my Abbey of Gethsemane mug, and one day I am surprised by the tiny pink buds on the crab apple tree. This year everything is blooming all at once and way too early. Two weeks ago, just past Valentine's Day, I noticed the nubs of the small rose-pink buds on the tree, and then the blooms seemed to explode overnight, with the most blooms of the most vibrant color that we've ever had, either because of the warm winter, or maybe that interior pruning I did last fall. And the blooms stayed this year for longer than I've ever seen - a showy scene each time I would stare out the window. I even saw it crawling with honey bees one day, in February, which seems unnatural, until I remember it is nature, after all, so the bees probably know better than me. This flowering crab apple has been a continuing inspiration the past few weeks of this winter, and an always ready hit of instant brightness and uplift for the spirit.
Last week, however, the blooms began to fade, seemingly too soon as they always do. We always grieve a tiny bit to see such a beautiful thing leave. But this year, I stopped myself and realized these are not dying flowers, but changing ones. And I saw a next phase starting where the blooms are longer, with stems reaching down to the ground like tiny fireworks on each branch, that even though they were no longer what we think of as "beautiful flowers" they were more beautiful because I had to look harder to see them and pay attention to their detail.
It's like the Van Gogh painting, "Almond Blossom". This painting is not striking in its color, there is no mad inspiration in the brush stokes of thick paint, like the sunflower paintings or "Irises". There is no awe-inspiring, passionate cry of the mystery of "The Starry Night". There is just a pleasant day with tiny blooms on a craggy limb. The blooms have no color, they sit, small, because they are utilitarian nut blooms and do not need to be showy to accomplish their purpose. They are what they are because God made them that way, and they can be nothing else, so I don't think they would even apologize for being less than other more flashy flowers. When you look at them closely, however, at how delicate, how precise, how perfect they are in their simplicity, they are poetry. They are life at its most real and most beautiful.
Today has felt like an Almond Blossom day. Some days you have inspiration or drive that propels you through, with seeming unlimited energy, be it love or rage, excitement or passion. Some days are down, rainy days, or tired ones where you ache or can't think because your head is too heavy to lift. Today was neither. It was not quite warm and not quite cool. We had a beautiful clear sky, but with nothing to put the sunshine in context, just seemed to be a bright day. It was a day I got some work done, and some rest, some prayer, but with no real reflection, just a regular day full of going and being and neither one of them strong enough to keep any inertia going in any one direction. It was a day, though, where if we look close enough at how everything has fit into its place, how everything with a use fulfilled its purpose, and at how the regular nature of a quiet Sunday fits into keeping Sabbath among all the hundreds of Sabbaths that we live over our lives, that was a beautiful day indeed.