Cherry Blossoms: Fifty Springs Are Little Room

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?

Header photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “Cherry Blossoms: Fifty Springs Are Little Room”

  1. Just reading the title of “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” gives me a thrill. What a wonderful poem.
    We have had a cold, wet, gray spring, so blooms are only slowly coming out right now. The crabapples have a variety of colors, and redbuds bring a purple splash to the streets. My Kwazan cherry has started to pop bright pink flowers. I just hope we don’t get any more frosts or heavy rains that would ruin them before they have a chance to be glorious.

    1. I have framed homemade engineering prints of both Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven!
      We have a lot of apple trees where we live too – and actually have a local Apple Blossom Festival. But the cherry trees comes first and always give me a special sort of delight since they’re beautiful while so much else is quite drab and gray.

  2. Our spring is SO LATE this year so none of our trees are flowering. We do not have cherry blossoms here in Minnesota, instead we have other flowering trees, like crab apple. They would typically be blooming by now, but not this year. Things are just starting to bloom! It reminds me of the spring of 2014 when I moved back to Minneapolis from Charlotte. I got to experience 2 springs that year – first in Charlotte in March and then again Minneapolis when I moved back mid-May. This spring feels very similar to that one. I do try to notice when the trees are starting to bud because they go from budding to having leaves and then blossoms so quickly, and then the flowers drop so quickly, so it is a very fleeting season.

    I read 4000 weeks last month and appreciated the perspective it gave me about the brevity of time.

    1. It all happens so quickly. We have a crab apple tree on our property and sometimes the whole bloom-to-drop can happen in less than 48 hours. But when it’s in bloom it is stunning.

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. And yes, it is one of my favourite poems. Lots of imagery, but short and accessible in terms of understanding it all. Also, when someone uses the word “score” to denote time, you know it has to be good. It just feels so rich and classic that way (I also feel the same when I hear friend use the term “fortnight” – I always find it lovely).

  3. I’ve never heard this poem before, and I love it.
    The older I get, the more I become aware that my days truly are numbered. It sound like a depressing thing to say, but I don’t mean it that way. If like went on and on indefinitely, there would be no reason to treasure things like seeing the cherry blossoms. It wouldn’t be as special. And it also reminds me not to take things seriously or let little things get me down. If I only have xxx days left, do I really want to ruin one by ruminating about something silly?
    Enjoy the cherry blossoms!

    1. I think, in generations past, people lived with these thoughts at the forefront more than we do in modern society. And I think, in some ways, it’s a major disservice to our generation as understanding the brevity of life can help us make better choices in the here-and-now. Focussing on values-based living…and also looking for the fun and joy in the current moment.

  4. It is a late spring here, too, and the only things blooming here are the daffodils. It will make it more celebratory when other things start blooming, though! I can’t wait for that day. It will be glorious.

    One of my favorite things about having a dog is that I have to go outside every day. And seeing how fascinated she is by everything makes me notice everything too. Before Hannah, I had no idea that American robins are slow, dumb birds with a death wish (obviously, death by dog). I had no idea that an opossum family lived under our front porch. I had no idea that there were so many deer paths in our local park. I had no idea that Baroo, the gorgeous dog who lives kitty-corner across the street from us, hates other dogs. It’s really nice to have an excuse to go outside every day and just poke around.

    1. Daffodils are so pretty; tulips and daffodils are in full bloom here, too, and it makes for such a lovely view when out walking.
      I also think your observations on how Hannah broadens your appreciation of nature is just lovely! You have a whole new layer of insights into the natural world outside your door that, you’re right…wouldn’t have been relevant or noticed without Hannah’s presence in your life <3

  5. I’m not familiar with this poem. Thanks for sharing it here. I’m sure I’ll enjoy Susan Cain’s latest book so I’ll add it to the list. I know that I don’t have another 50 springs in me, but I also know that I’m enjoying each one that I do have. No cherry blossoms here. Spring is more about the shades of green that appear seemingly out of nowhere.

    1. I’m really hoping I haven’t hyped up this book too much in my mind, but the whole premise just oozes “me.”
      Just today on a drive home we were all commenting on how lovely the big rolling hills in our area look – virtually overnight everything has turned green. Everything looks so saturated in that colour it almost looks…unreal. But it is real and such a delight to see.

  6. Oh, if you put it this way… less than 50 springs doesn’t sound very much. Let’s really enjoy every season to the fullest! We have cherry blossom trees here in California and they’re lovely.

    1. For things that happen once a year (birthdays, Christmas, cherry blossoms)…the idea of how few we might have left can be inspiring to make sure we get out and enjoy them while we can. Blossoms especially are a “blink and you miss them” event!

  7. Sigh…no cherry blossoms in my area. But, my magnolia tree is looking magnificent right now 😉 It seems like every spring, it just starts to bloom when a nasty rain storm hits (and all the lovely pink pedals get shredded) or a late-season frost turns all the blossoms a not-so-lovely shade of brown. This year, though, the blossoms are standing tall in all their glory 😉

    1. Ah – the dreaded rain/wind storm. We have a beautiful crab apple tree near our house and it blossoms periodically (I’m not sure what makes the difference – it’s never every year, but it’s not always just every other year. It’s weird!)…one year it had the most beautiful blossoms and then we had a wind/rain storm and they were all gone overnight. Reminder to enjoy them when we can.
      Magnolia’s are lovely, too!

  8. I love Houseman’s poem, it is one that I have read on several occasions to my children.

    I hope I have 50 springs left in me, I might be rather doddery by the final few but put me in a chair by a window and I can still enjoy the delights of spring from that position.

    Cherry Blossom is a marvellous sight isn’t it. We have three in our terrace not in my garden all in the neighbours all flower at different times, one is all done, one is in full bloom and one is yet to bloom. They often bloom when it is very windy and the blossom lasts all of five minutes before it is scattered.

    A lovely post, thank you.

    1. Isn’t it a lovely poem! It transports me (like Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening) to another world. It actually reminds me of The White Way of Delight from the Anne of Green Gables movies.

      How wonderful you have cherry blossoms so near your home and to have them staggered in blooming is a bonus.

  9. What a beautiful poem! This one will stick with me. Moving to Nova Scotia from SoCal instilled real wonder in me in the seasonal aspects of life that simply don’t exist where I come from. I find so much joy in the progressions of spring: crocus, tulip, forsythia, magnolia, lupine…each one blooming as the last one fades. It never gets old!

    1. What a great point, and you’re so right. It is a steady succession of natural wonders here in Nova Scotia – and come fall all the fruit-bearing trees laden with their offerings.
      You know how I feel about winter, but it does allow us to have spring, summer and fall, and maybe that makes it worth every snow day and blizzard?

  10. Blooming trees make me so happy, even if they portend the start of the really bad part of allergy season here in the upper Midwest. Someone, above, commented on their love of the change of seasons and I completely agree. I don’t think I could live somewhere – even if it were warm and lovely – without changing seasons. They bring a rhythm to life that reminds me, no matter how deep I get into my own life, that the world is still turning “out there”.

    But it also makes me think of something else – the importance of *paying attention*. This has been on my mind of late, as I’ve been truly immersed in work and failing (sigh) to look up, and look out at the world. I’ve been surprised to look out my window and see the tree outside in nearly full leaf, after being bare two weeks ago. (Well, to be fair, we skipped April, May, June, and July, and went straight from March to August here in WI the last few days…) If I am not paying attention, then I will not be living my 50 remaining springs (although, let’s be honest, it’s probably closer to 40 at this point…) to the fullest possible extent.

    So yet another (beautiful) reminder from the natural world to remember to pay attention. All the time. 🙂

    1. You’re so right – the big events that mark the changes in seasons (things like flowering plants, fruit trees) can literally happen in a matter of days. It takes paying attention to see them.
      That said, sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves. There are going to be things we miss and that’s okay. Another season will come – or it won’t. It’s a balance. Sometimes when I try hard to notice, it actually takes away from the experience. If that makes sense? I try to make it a habit and sometimes that does require “forcing” it but ALWAYS my favourite moments of natural beauty happen organically. Glancing up to see a sunset that awes me or enjoying the blossoms I come across on a walk.

  11. I completely agree that “forcing” it doesn’t help. It’s the unanticipated moments that thrill the soul. This morning? I looked behind me at the end of my walk to see the most beautiful soft pink sunrise spreading in the east. I was prompted to do that because it reflected in the windows of the building in front of me, making me wonder where the color was coming from. I didn’t bother to take out my phone, I didn’t race to find a “better” spot from which to view it (my view was over a strip mall, LOL), I just… enjoyed it for what it was. <3

    1. “Enjoy it for what it was” – yes to this! Sometimes “perfect” doesn’t have to be perfect. A sunrise over a strip mall can, theoretically, take our breath away with wonder as much as a sunrise over the Taj Mahal. If we let it…

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