Two years ago, I learned that I had a crabapple tree in my backyard.
I mean, I knew there was a tree there. I saw it and everything. But I had no idea what kind of tree it was, and in truth, I thought it looked kind of sickly the autumn that we moved into the house. It was tucked into the corner of the lot, butting up against a big power pole. It didn’t look like much, so except to think it might need to be cut down and we’ll see, I didn’t think about the tree at all.
Probably because on top of moving into our lovely old home that autumn, my mom fell and broke her pelvis, and I sent a kid across the country for college. And my mom died and life felt so hard that winter. I remember bits and pieces of that time. Trying to come out from under the grief of my mom’s passing like some heavy blanket that I couldn’t bring myself to crawl out of.
But the spring came and the grass turned green and there were tulips growing up out of the leaf piles, like little everyday miracles. And life felt like something that maybe I could join in again. I felt like I was taking brand new steps each day, learning how to live in a world without a mother.
Just when I felt like I had my footing, we learned that my 7-year-old niece, Riley, had a brain tumor. And that she would need operations on her brain, and chemo and radiation. We didn’t know for how long or what the outcome would be. I only knew that one of my very favorite people in the world had a brain tumor. And I could not wrap my mind around how a little kid could get cancer.
It was probably the darkest time I remember. Trying to find some answer or hope in a world that clearly had a sniper in every tree, threatening to take out everyone that I loved the most. It was easy to spot every single possible pitfall that could befall any one of us.
What was hard to find hope or reason in any of it.
Then one day I went outside with the dog and we were doing one of our many walks around the yard to get her to poop. And there was suddenly the most beautiful flowering tree. I had not noticed the buds. I did not know it was coming. I was too caught up in sadness to see much of anything.
But it was there anyway. A big tree full of pink flowers, so open and perfect and lovely that I could not name them anything but hope. Because pink is my niece Riley’s favorite color. Because I really needed some little miracle to bloom out of nowhere. And it did.
I stood out by that tree – day after day- for weeks, until the last blooms fell. I got attached to it in some way that one normally wouldn’t feel about a tree. Because for me, it isn’t just a tree. It is the thing that reminds me that there is always hope. And always beauty.
But hope and beauty are not something we find when we are chasing them. They are always right here.
It is only when we are ready to see them that they will appear to us.
I still love my tree. Proving to me again and again that there is always something waiting to come forward and bloom with hope, even when you are at your darkest and you don’t expect it.