On a breezy day, the blossoms are falling like snowflakes in my neighborhood, and so my thoughts have turned to spring.
I’ll start with our little cherry tree…
Perhaps the earth can teach us
As when everything seems dead
And later proves to be alive.
A few years ago, we lost the towering hackberry tree that had stood in our front yard long before we moved to this house in 1983. To replace it, the city planted a small cherry tree. It was late autumn. As winter set in, the tree stood in the ground, looking like a lifeless stick. I wondered if it was alive. Then one day, from my living room window, I spotted a few specks of green on it. I went outside to get a closer look and saw the beginnings of tiny leaves on the branches. Within days, the tree was sporting four exquisite pink blossoms.
So, whenever you feel defeated or hopeless, know that at any moment, from deep within, you may blossom just as Zen master Soen Nakagawa describes in this next poem:
All beings are flowers
In a blossoming universe.
This poem always brings a slight smile to my face—as slight as the tiny flower buds on my new cherry tree. It reminds me that all of us can blossom and fulfill our potential as loving and caring human beings.
It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. —Rainer Maria Rilke
I have a perennial garden in my front yard. By the end of winter, it looks so bleak that I wonder if the earth that holds its plants has forgotten what to do with them. But Rilke said otherwise…and he was right.
In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. —Margaret Atwood
This quotation from Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood would make a good springtime resolution: At the end of at least one day this spring, I resolve that I will smell like dirt—at least on my hands!
Spring comes, grass grows by itself. —Seung Sahn
Readers of my books will be familiar with several of Korean Zen master Seung Sahn’s teachings. Here he’s reminding us that we need not interfere with everything. I’m working on this in my own life. I have a tendency to want to fix everyone’s problems instead of letting them experience life “growing by itself.” I write about this in How to Wake Up, where I admit to being a “recovering fixer.” It’s going pretty well.
If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. —Rumi
When I became chronically ill and found myself living mostly in my bedroom, it took me a long time to start crawling. I say this about it in How to Wake Up:
I spent my days caught up in constant longing for my life to be the way it was before I got sick. I wanted to work. I wanted to travel. I wanted to be active in the life of my family and my community. But no amount of wishing for my circumstances to be different got me any closer to resuming my former life.
I was stuck...stuck until I realized that I’d have to learn to live a new life. And so, instead of fighting against what I could not change, I accepted chronic illness as my starting point and I began to crawl toward that new life.
Spring the perfect time to start crawling.
The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. —e.e. cummings
Yes, there are summer, autumn, and winter puddles. But, to me, spring puddles are the mud-luscious ones because they remind us that the earth is thawing—getting soft and inviting us to play with it again.
In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. —Mark Twain
Every year, I forget that spring doesn’t just mean warm sun. The wind whips up. The rain falls. It can be as cold as winter in the shade. I give Mr. Twain a gold star for mindfulness!
And, finally, if your springtime plans go awry, remember this:
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. —John Lennon
Philosophers have said it using more sophisticated words, but Lennon cuts to the chase with his Zen-like lyric. No matter what plans we make, life may intervene and take us in an unexpected direction. The ability to be flexible, like a new spring sapling, is one of the keys to contentment and happiness. If we can change course gracefully, understanding that some our plans will succeed and some will not, we can find peace of mind in any circumstances.
© 2014 Toni Bernhard www.tonibernhard.com
Thank you for reading my work. My most recent book is titled How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow.
I'm also the author of the award-winning How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers.