Recently, strolling through Beacon street in Boston, the magnolia trees seemed to be in full bloom and of many hues: buttery-yellow, sepia pink, and palest pink. What is it about these trees in bloom that fascinate me so much? I wonder if the answer has to do with the fact that they vividly represent the passage of seasons, which I have only recently experienced in their fullest sense.
Growing up in the Sultanate of Oman’s desert environment, I was privy to only two seasons: summer and winter. The temperatures begin to cool down in November, yet remain in the 80s till March, and that’s what we called winter. With the onset of April, the mercury would rise, ACs would be turned on and conversations would revolve around how the summer was getting hotter every year.
The combination of the binary seasons and limited desert fauna meant that the only other trees I encountered were exotic species. Meanwhile, the grudging concession the landscape made to changing seasons was post-rainfall, when ephemeral desert plants bloomed, briefly sporting green down.
As for flowers, my botanist mother planted petunias and marigolds in our garden during Oman’s brief winter before the summer heat diminished them—and only fuchsia and vermillion bougainvillea provided the splash of color during those furnace hot months.
Later, when I arrived in the United Kingdom to pursue my undergraduate studies, I was finally able to experience the gamut of seasons. It was fall at the time: the trees on campus appeared to be on fire, the crimson and yellow and orange leaves merging with each other before disappearing altogether into their stoic winter avatars. Then, cheery yellow daffodils polka-dotted the thawing earth by March, thankfully signaling spring. I remember encountering them once jammed into the lime green and royal blue bottles that served as the table centerpieces at a cafe, the melange of bright colors encapsulating spring.
I was like a migratory bird in the United Kingdom, frequently flitting in and out of the land and thus was never able to quite appreciate the transitional aspects of seasons.
It was only years later when I moved to Pittsburgh in the middle of the winter in December 2012 that I began to relish the changing seasons in and of our lives.
The prolonged and bitterly cold winter this year made me eagerly anticipate spring’s arrival, with a sharper, renewed appreciation for the gifts it brought.
Ever since I moved into my apartment, the trees beyond my balcony have functioned as a theater providing access to the performance of seasons.
I have witnessed trees turning every shade of green imaginable; dancing in a dramatic storm; turning tomato red seemingly overnight and just as swiftly denuding themselves of dying leaves. After the fall concert, I became resigned to winter’s monochrome universe for many months. On the rare sunny day, the trees glimmered with a sharp, bright energy despite being unclothed. Their branches appeared like fragile lace, simultaneously appearing both strong and vulnerable in winter’s face.
And so, one morning, when I looked out of the balcony, I was pleasantly startled to spot bits of bright green tinting the branches; the next day, when I walked through the nearby lanes, I encountered two budding trees. Such were the vagaries of Pittsburgh weather that it unexpectedly began snowing and as I dashed through the flakes, I could not help but think that even if the temperatures told us otherwise, the trees instinctively knew that it was spring—and it was time to bud.
As I write this, I look up to see trees smothered in green; what was previously a galaxy of white blossoms have already begun to leaf and even fruit. When I now walk through the streets, the pavement is littered with thousands of tiny white petals, uncannily resembling unmelting snowflakes from the distance.
The other day, upon encountering a cherry blossom tree, I captured the sight on my already burgeoning phone camera roll of trees in bloom. When I turned around, I saw a delivery man leaning against his truck and smiling at me. “We waited long enough for this to happen, huh?” he said. “It may have been long but every bloom was worth the wait,” I told him—and so it is, both for a tree and ourselves.
What we thought was an unendurable winter was in fact a time of introspection, renewal, and transformation; the cyclical processes of life were at constant work and the barrenness belied the embryos of growth and change growing within the subterranean depths. And so as the buds open and the blooms face the world, we too are ready to present our reinvented selves and get on with the business of living and loving life in all it seasons.
Priyanka Sacheti is an independent cultural writer based in Pittsburgh. Priyanka has written extensively about art, culture and gender. She has authored 3 poetry volumes and her short stories have appeared in international anthologies.When she’s not working on her short story collection or pursuing photography, she blogs at http://iamjustavisualperson.blogspot.com/