I was lying on the sofa looking out the living room window. It was a gloomy December day. The excitement of Christmas had passed and the New Year was around the corner but I felt miserable. It was one of those unremarkable, overcast British winter days. There was no snow. It didn’t feel like winter; it just felt like a nothing day. A day devoid of personality, emotions, joy. My soul longed for real winter, the kind we had growing up in Poland, with snow on the ground, and crisp, below-zero air. In Poland, the seasons never let you down. Winter was winter, spring was spring, summer was summer. The seasons were clearly defined and when they changed you could sense the departure of the old and the arrival of the new. In the years that I lived in Poland, I formed a strong attachment to the seasonal cycles. Each season had its own sounds, smells and colours and I never could get used to the diluted way in which they expressed themselves in the UK. What was adding to my low mood on this particular December day was the fact that the tree outside the window was flowering. Pale pink blossoms were bursting out of their buds, forming a defiant contrast against the pewter sky. I jumped to the conclusion that the tree was confused; that the mild temperature was causing it to blossom prematurely, giving false hope of a spring that was still months away. Perhaps global warming was to blame. For lack of anything better to do, I asked Google, “Why do trees blossom in the winter UK?” thinking I’d only find a confirmation of my assumption.
I was wrong.
A quick search revealed that the tree outside my window was a prunus subhirtella Autumnalis – a winter cherry. It is normal for this tree to flower in the winter. I had always associated blossoms with spring, and here was this tree, happily flaunting its flowers in late December.
The defiant winter cherry, showing me what’s what. I have lived on this island for many years and still I don’t know it. I never paid attention to its rhythms because I was so fixated on this conflict within me: the battle between my nostalgic, feeble roots, and new soils.
Let the winter cherry be a reminder that there is life even in these dark days. While the earth slowly makes its way back to the sun, make the most of small pleasures. They may be harder to find but make the effort to look.