For starters, I’m not a poetry buff. Much of it – modern and otherwise – goes over my head. But every once in a while, I’ll stumble across a poem that has staying power. For example, I have deep sentimental attachments to Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost) and Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven (William Butler Yeats) and get a thrill each time I hear them.
And such is the case with Loveliest of Trees by A.E. Housman.
I’m jumping back to the (slightly melancholic) theme of the brevity of life. It is sobering to think that This too shall pass, but I contend this mindset can also motivate the pursuit of rich intentionality in our choices. Memento mori, right?
(I can’t be all wrong; Susan Cain has just put out what is sure to be a bestseller on the power of a “bittersweet” outlook in life; Oliver Burkeman is making the circuit discussing time management for “mere mortals,” working with a figure of ~4,000 weeks).
Where I live, cherry blossoms are in bloom. And Housman is right – they really are the loveliest of trees. It’s a short season, so I make an effort to remember which houses boast the best blossoms and direct my walking/driving routes by these locations.
Life is short and even if I get every single one of those 4000 weeks, for events that happen cyclically, like enjoying the brief – but breathtaking – wonder of cherry trees in full bloom, there are limited opportunities to enjoy the experience.
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.
A. E. Housman
I, quite likely, have fewer than 50 springs remaining. I almost certainly have fewer than 50 springs where I’ll be fully mobile. Perhaps, at some point, I’ll no longer live in a part of the world with cherry blossoms.
Which makes me more aware of my privilege in seeing them this year. It could, after all, be my last.
And they are lovely.
So let’s go – out of our way if need be – to see the “blossoms” when they’re in season. This might be literal blossoms on a cherry tree or to make time to cuddle a friend’s new baby (I can assure you that, too, is a fleeting experience).
Laura Vanderkam and Diane from Life Off Headset have both blogged about the beauty and abundance of cherry blossoms in DC lately. Are you enjoying blossoms – of any variety – where you live? More generally, are there any activities/events you can never get enough of? How can we best use our remaining “fifty springs” to enjoy the beautiful things in life?