Spring has finally arrived, I thought, as I breathed in the clean air and scanned the landscape around me. It had been a long winter, longer than in many years past, and the new life was a welcome reprieve from the bitter, colorless angst of winter. Day by day, my older girls would happily trot outside to explore the newness teeming all around them: delicate and abundant wildflowers of all varieties; chirping birds in search of food; and flowering trees that whispered in the wind whenever the breeze tickled our faces.
Except for one tree. It was a peculiar tree, one I liked but had to research last year after we moved into our new house. Upon examination of the ancient abstract we received, it appeared to be a flowering crabapple tree. It stood proudly on the cusp of our driveway, boasting its branches. But it wouldn’t bloom. The other, surrounding trees seemed to mock it with their brazen colors and lush greenery. Everything else bloomed on time, but the crabapple didn’t budge.
I didn’t give it much thought until the previous owner (whom we know) stopped by one unusually sunny afternoon to pick up her stray mail. She commented at how the tree always bloomed to perfection, but she worried (I didn’t) that it wouldn’t blossom until next spring. She even showed me a picture on her phone of the tree in its prime one year before they moved.
Every day thereafter I’d investigate this odd deciduous fruit tree. It showed no indication that it even wanted to flower, but I was patient. I knew it would flourish in its time. And one afternoon, as I walked onto our back porch for the umpteenth time, I gasped in wonder as I beheld the fullness of its bloom. It was delightfully fragrant, far better than any exquisite perfume, and completely cloaked in a canopy of tiny light pink blossoms. Underneath was a garden statue of the Blessed Mother I’d placed there last fall.
I stood in awe for a moment, basking in the wonder of God’s creation. Everywhere my eyes scanned, I saw majestic purple of the redbuds, robust burgundy of the Japanese maples, innocent white of the dogwoods, and delicate tendrils of the weeping cherries. As I glanced at our Blessed Mother statue, I smiled to myself. Surely this is a perfect place to honor her, I silently admitted. It’s a perfect representation of her love for us: the canopy of her mantle embracing and protecting us; the fragrance of her love and mercy; the delicacy of her meekness; and the unsurpassed color of her glory.
She was there with me in that moment, I couldn’t deny it. And as I smiled to myself, I thought of how that little crabapple symbolized so much to me about my own life. Despite the hopeless prediction of its failure, it withstood the early spring squalls and drastic temperature swings. It stood alone, yet remained undaunted by its competitors. It was patient with how and when God chose for it to reveal itself to the world. Instead of hastening its blossoms, it allowed time to unfurl the blooms so that they would be even more radiant, lush, and sublime.
We are all like that little tree, standing under the Blessed Mother’s care. If we choose to entrust all to her, she will see to it that we bear the fruit that remains and, once pruned and plucked, bear even more fruit for God’s kingdom. But all things must flourish and flower in God’s time. He is a deliberate and intentional God and wants us to follow His lead. Instead of impulsively moving from one frenzied form of excitement to another, we would do well to pay heed to the hidden ways of the crabapple.
It is not so undesirable to be a late bloomer. Maybe it’s better to be late than early, in fact, for greatness can never be quickened, lest it becomes easily defeated. Under Our Lady’s mantle, we are more apt to become the masterpiece that stands out in some unforeseen way, a manner that does not outdo the rest of creation, but enhances it.
Before capturing the timeless story of this tree on camera, I recalled the words in Song of Songs: “Do not awaken or stir up love until it is ready!” (8:4) Indeed, there is wisdom in all things, for all comes to fruition according to God’s perfect plan for us when we wait for Him with patience and courage.
Text (c) 2018 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved