Many may think of spring as the time for flowers and fresh, green leaves on trees. But if you hurry through anything meaningful in life, you miss much of the wonder along the way. And, is there anything fuller of wonder, fuller of promise, more demanding of notice, than the tree bud?
Already last autumn, as the trees rained down their leaves in showers of gold and red and orange, the buds for this spring were already forming before the tree went dormant for winter. The promise of each new leaf was hidden under its protective casing along each branch.
All winter long, as the bitter northwest winds swayed and tossed the seemingly-bare tree limbs, the movement defied the stillness, the motionlessness of the winter landscape. The buds clung tightly in the dance. In the stiffness of January, most humans took no notice. The human eye most often sees the emptiness, the loss, the barrenness, but not the promise. The ruffed grouse did notice the promise though. A feast of tight aspen buds is the difference between life and starvation.
The buds, while dormant in the winter, were barely noticeable to the eye. And on a February day, if one could brave an unmittened hand, the buds were barely noticeable to the touch. But as the sun strengthened, winter weakened, and the frost reluctantly loosened its grip in the dripping snowmelt of March - life awakens!
Blessed thaw lifts the sap and the buds begin to swell. Still hidden, the new leaves take shape and begin to unfold. Impatient souls look to calendars and stare out the window and huff. The appreciative eye notices the persistent daily change to the silhouettes of the branches, and allows hope to build over the necessary weeks of gestation. The bud is not unlike a bird’s egg. Outside it appears hard and lifeless, as the stones scattered on the shore. But inward, life.
Finally, finally now, in early May, winter – the season of sleep, itself stops wrestling with spring and goes to its own rest. The buds, again almost egg-like split open so that a sliver of new green is seen pressing its escape. This week as I look out the window, a quick glance could miss the scene. It is happening!
At some point in the next few days, millions upon millions of new green leaves will emerge like so many butterflies from their cocoons. Leaves will unfold and once again flutter in the breeze, allowing the trees to once more take up their voices and sing of promises made, promises kept, promises realized.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14