Wednesday, April 15, 2009
by A. E. Housman
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
* * *
Cherry blossoms always seem to spark meditations on time. Each year, we only get about a week of them. If you miss them, they're gone.
I walked by the cherry blossoms every day for a week, saying to myself, "Tomorrow I'll come out with a camera, and get some pictures. Tomorrow, I'll stop and enjoy them." But of course it was grade week, and day after day they hung in my path to tempt me, but I passed them by. Finally, on Friday, I had a little time. Only it was sunset, so I didn't get all the sunshiny pictures I'd hoped for. Over the weekend I had company, and only had a moment to glance at them. I awoke Monday morning to pouring rain. The petals lay in soggy masses on the ground and stuck themselves to the cars in the parking lot. I had let the week slip through my hands, and there was no extension -- no hope for another chance. They were gone, and the pictures and memories I'd gotten of them would have to suffice.
Every year it's like that. The short moment we have with the blossoms is almost painful in its ephemerality. You're so eager to enjoy them while they last, but there's a sadness in it, too -- every moment you enjoy them, you think of their fall. The poet might easily have said, "Where are the cherry blossoms of yesteryear?" Robert Frost did say of Nature, "Her early leaf's a flower, but only so an hour." Their transience makes them so precious, but at the same time, it's almost easier to pretend you don't care -- to pass them by, for fear they will make your heart ache when they fall; to feel a sense of relief when they're gone, because at least the tension of their impermanence won't trouble you anymore.
Yet I resolve not to let myself do that. I will instead take the time it requires to capture things that are fleeting. Fifty springs is a short time to see the blossoms in -- but it is worth taking that time.
How often I disparage the time I live in. "Oh, if only I were grown up -- if only I were in college -- if only I had graduated -- if only I had married." I always look toward the future, and I suspect I always will. But it should never be at the cost of the present. The present only comes once, and only lasts a moment.
I got an extension on the cherry blossoms, by the way. I flew to Seattle, where the blossoms are still on the trees -- even despite a hailstorm yesterday. I took a detour across a parking lot today and let them brush against my face. Thank you, God, for a second chance to marvel at your creation.
* * *
Editorial Note: Sorry for the hiatus in posting. I've been waiting for more entries on the poetry contest, and of course running myself to the ground with busy-ness. But try to get your submissions in by the end of the week, so I can finish judging them. I've been getting some lovely sonnets! And I finished mine, too.