March 19, 2021
One year ago, on March 13, 2020, the first case of Coronavirus was reported. Our governor announced that all schools would immediately close for three weeks. On March 16, businesses began closing and sending their employees home to work. On March 18, statewide orders prevented gatherings of more than 25 people, closed beaches, and postponed primary elections. On March 27, all businesses deemed non-essential were ordered to close for three weeks. That order was extended. By April 1, the state hit a milestone of 1000 confirmed cases, and on April 3, the governor imposed a stay-at-home order for the rest of the month. While the word “unprecedented” gained a new, and negative, meaning, the redbuds bloomed.
Redbud trees are native to eastern North America from southern Michigan south to central Mexico, and east to New Jersey. Species thrive as far west as California and as far north as southern Ontario. The pink to magenta-colored blossoms last about three weeks, and when not in bloom, redbud leaves are heart-shaped. Their time in bloom is “ephemeral,” a Greek word that originally meant “lasting one day.” Blossoms and wildflowers that appear briefly are fleeting and reflect the transitory nature of all life. Redbuds are also my favorite spring tree.
Last year, as we walked into the unfamiliar and frightening period of lockdown, I noticed the redbuds more than I have at any other time in my life. The initial months of the spread of Covid terrified me as I worried about my own family and their health and watched the numbers rise. There were moments when I could do nothing more than stare out my windows, and it was in those precious moments that my eyes settled on the beauty of the redbuds, their splash of color a symbol of hope amidst the bare branches of winter. Redbuds reminded me that everything happening in our world, in my own world, was transitory, fleeting, and that resurrection happens.
One year later, the deaths attributed to Covid in our state alone are over 10,000, and people are still dying. On April 7, our governor has decreed that the mask mandate will end and everything can reopen fully. That statement alone makes me anxious because I believe we are acting too quickly. Yet, the redbuds are back in bloom, just for a brief time, and in that ephemeral space, they beckon me to ask if I am a different person than I was this time last year, and the answer is that in some ways, yes, I am. I am keenly aware of how little control I have in this life. I am keenly aware of the bittersweet and poignant significance of my loved ones. I understand in a way I never did how miraculous each moment is because that moment, no matter what it contains, is fleeting, ephemeral, and can never return exactly as it was. There was a time when I did not pay attention to the exquisite wonder of a redbud blossom, and now I savor each day it deigns to delight me.
Will my more focused and appreciative attention span continue as the world tries to rise from the ashes and return to its noisy, feverish self? I pray so. It is my Lenten hope that I can continue to listen to the song of the redbuds, even when they are no longer in bloom. Blessings to you. ~ Rosemary