These past couple of weeks have been the prime bloom and demise of cherry blossoms in Western Washington. They appeared in planted groves, up driveways, in arboretums, and then surprisingly at random across the countryside. Our own tree is especially full this year with the promise of juicy buckets of sour cherries to follow. They are such a welcome sign of a gentle, arising spring.
But as spectacularly beautiful as cherry blossoms are in prime, they also are especially vulnerable and all too quickly morph into leaves and spent branches. The combination of glory and vulnerability gives the cherry blossom season special meeting in Japan where people flock to orchards and parks to view the fleeting spender and to hold the cherry blossoms’ glory as well as their transient beauty and vulnerability. The Japanese use a special word, “hanami,” to try to describe the fleeting joy of watching the petals float to the ground.
The image of the vulnerable cherry blossom has had special meaning for me these past few days as I am now recovering from a couple weeks of recovery from hip replacement surgery. Like our experience with most medical conditions and procedures, we find our bodies and minds vulnerable to the pain, the anxiety, and a loss of control. I have been in awe at the capacity of the medical field to provide such often unimaginable accomplishments like replacing my hip and sending me walking at home at the end of the day. But the disruption and compromising of mind and body function reminds us above all about how vulnerable we also are.
I am finding it valuable to spiritually hold my vulnerability this evening. As much as I would prefer to have more control over my compromised leg and mobility right now, it is a welcome lesson in humility to depend on Cathy and medications for support and comfort during the day. I am finding that being vulnerable not only rescues me from my numbness and ego, it also heightens my sensitivity to life’s joys and sorrows. My rather minor pain and discomfort this week has led me to identify with the far greater suffering and medical vulnerability of people in the rest of the world. And at best, I can better appreciate the marvelous gifts of health and agency that I enjoy now and will likely be restored to me.
Ultimately, of course, we are all like the cherry blossoms in both their glory and transient vulnerability. The cherry blossom bloom graces us with a poetic, holy image to hold for life in general and for our person lives in particular. Poet David Whyte writes, “The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous, and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.”
Even with the cherry blossoms gone, so much lavishness of green and life affirmations surround us in nature with sun-laden rebirth and renewal.