It seems a shame that I kept the blinds to the front of my apartment closed so much. The window faced the street and my privacy, my sense of decorum, seemed challenged if I opened them. So for the last year and a half I have missed seeing my own private show of spring in the Lowcountry.
Of course I knew the blooms of this cherry tree, now tall and wide enough to span a window, looked beautiful from the front of the house. As I worked in the small yard, I enjoyed it, and neighbors commented on its striking beauty more than once. I had even seen cars slow, seen the passenger-side window filled with wide eyes, mostly certain those eyes were not at the sight of me, my hands dirty and full of pulled weeds. Yet, I had never actually seen its splendor from the back, the drawn blinds hiding this framed work of art.
Behind those blinds, surrounded by that window frame, there had been a blushing, budding still life waiting for me each spring. In winter, the blooms were gone, the branches bare, in variegated shades of grey and brown spread like the spokes of a fan, waiting to be folded up. I had been known to admire that stark simplicity as November stretched to February too, but again, only from the front.
I did not plant these flowering boughs. Planting took place long before I came to live here, by a man who knew more, in one finger, about the flora and fauna of South Carolina than I will ever know. As he kept his cousin’s yard in shape, Buddy tried to teach me some of it—what time of day to cut the roses he’d planted in the backyard, when to weed the leaf lettuce grown from seed at his house, and what to feed which birds so they would keep coming back every year. I’d told him how I loved to hear them sing first thing in the morning.
When he finally passed away, after beating the odds year after year, the yard seemed empty without his toothy smiles, beat-up hats, his stories about birds and his reminders to me to slow down, to look as I listened. After a rough patch in life, I’d forgotten to open my eyes to the simple things that made me smile each day. I owe him. Buddy and the birds brought me to see the tender work of renewal inside of me and inside the frame of one window in my world.
One morning, not so long ago, I heard the birds chirping, as if in chorus, and curiosity outweighed weariness. I opened the blinds to find both birds and blossoms opening their pink throats. Each one was certain, more sure than a groundhog, that spring should be heralded with clear, unflinching fanfare.
Every day now, I open the window blinds. I sit still awhile, wait for birdsong or rain, or both. I notice buds, wrapped tightly along each thin limb waiting for the right time to push their way out. I imagine each shade of pink sliding up between the brightness of new green leaves and take pleasure at each one’s tiny attempt to become part of one perfect array of beauty. I see.
Soon there will be too many blossoms for me to tally. Soon the Lowcountry will flower itself into hues of pinks, purples, yellows and reds. I know now what a shame it would be to miss any of it. The display will humble each of us, each person who visits, each person who lives within inches, steps, an arm’s length from this, this unfolding of possibility.
Mary Hutchins Harris is a Charleston-based poet and essayist.