Pressing the pause button on life, momentarily, can make a big impact. I wrote about this in the context of responding to others. But I think even more important is pausing to observe, to enjoy, to participate and appreciate – pausing in order to enrich our lives. I realised this lately when thinking about a tree in our garden and how my reaction to it has changed over the past year. It’s a little story, but I like it – I think it has application to bigger things. See what you think.
In our small front garden, we have a crab apple tree. It’s not a very large tree, and only about six or seven years old, but its presence is starting to become more significant as it grows and spreads. It’s special for a range of reasons. My grandmother and I chose it together. As well as having a beautiful form, amazing bark and lovely leaves, we chose it due to the visual splendour these trees display when covered with delicate petals in spring. It may not appear as majestic as the more established trees in our suburb, but we love it (at least, I do, and I prompt my kids to notice it regularly too, in the hope that they will love gardens are well, and not just think their Mum’s a bit crazy).
So, early to mid October each year, our crab apple tree starts to bloom. The flowers open over a period of a week or so, and last for no more than two weeks (less if there is a lot of rain or heavy winds). After this stage, the flowers start to brown, look bedraggled, and finally the petals fall or blow away. While the tree in leaf is still lovely, it does not create the same sensational visual glory as it does in bloom.
For many years, I missed the flowering stage. We always seemed to have holidays at the same time (something about not having to wait until the Grand Final was over or something – part of the life of living with two Collingwood supporters, I guess). And holidays are lovely and we always had a great time. However, I was always a bit regretful that I never saw my tree at its peak. I would watch the buds emerge and grow, then we’d depart, and on our return, if we were lucky, a flower or two remained. The beauty of my tree existed mostly in my imagination.
But the past two years have been different. Last year we were here and I saw the flowering of our tree in spring. I eagerly took some photos and looked at it several times a day. The colours within each flower ranged from deep pinky red through to delicate pinks and almost white, which, when offset by the yellow-orange of the stamen, was just such a wonderful combination. I realise I am sounding a bit obsessed, I know, but the visual effect made me feel so happy and delighted. True beauty, right there, right with us! It was amazing – for about a week. And then, after a particularly powerful storm, within an afternoon, all the flowers were gone. I remember feeling a real loss – cheated from enjoying this display for just a bit longer.
This year, it’s been different. Again, we have been here during the flowering season. Again I have been taking photos (yes, there’s a photo at the top of this page – don’t you agree that this is a truly magnificent tree?? Why, thank you!) But this time, rather than regret the brevity of its flowering (which is over now), I have enjoyed it while it exists. There are other things that will follow that, in turn, if I notice, I also appreciate and enjoy. Not just within the garden, of course, but within the environment around me, through the activities I am part of, and the interactions with others. In some cases, there will be brief encounters, and in others, they will be ongoing or long term. Either way, I am finding this is helping to ground me more, and value what I have. It doesn’t come naturally though, but that’s ok. Small steps to start with are fine.
There’s a lot going on in the world, and it’s easy to focus on the wrongs, big or small, that occur every day. It’s also easy to live in the past, regretting what is no more, or rush, rush, rush to to keep up with a world that goes fast if you let it. I am finding that if I take the time to stop and appreciate the good that is around – even if it’s the flowers blooming on a tree – makes such a difference. And to do so when your 100 year old grandmother is also visiting, and is standing beside you, soaking in the beauty too – well, it’s these sorts of moments which really what makes life worth living.