That Awkward Stage

I have written before about the redbud tree--specifically, about the redbud I planted for my mother

I find, however, that besides being a sweet memory, the redbud continues to teach me. And I thought I'd share some of my thoughts with you.

The Cercis, or the redbud,  is a small deciduous tree  or shrub that has several varieties. These grow in the Eastern United States, the South, in Mexico, in Oklahoma, and in Texas.  Of course, with cross planting it is difficult to know if the redbud growing in your neighborhood is a native Texas tree or some other variety.

The nickname "redbud" is an odd one, as I have never seen a redbud with red buds. They are many shades, from light pink to dark fuchsia, but there are no red flowers. 

Nevertheless, I cannot see a redbud without thinking of A. E. Housman: "And since to look at things in bloom / fifty springs are little room / about the woodlands I will go / to see the cherry hung with snow." It is a reminder about the fleeting nature of beauty and the way it feeds our souls.

The flowers of the redbud are the first hint of Spring in South Texas. The different trees bloom at different times, but none bloom more than a few weeks at most. They are glorious, but the glory is short lived. The flowers are gone almost overnight--just as they appeared.

After the blooming, the trees simply have smallish green leaves for the remainder of the spring and summer, losing the leaves without much ceremony in the fall. The do have small seedpods in the fall and winter, and usually these are gone by the spring.

This year, however, some of the trees on campus have kept their seed pods. And so yesterday, as I was walking in from the parking lot, I saw our redbuds in an awkward stage. They are beginning to lose their flowers and gain their leaves, but they still have last year's seed pods.

This awkward and beautiful but not stage of growth reminds me of my own. I am growing and changing--I may have lost some of that excitement of new growth as I move to a different season, but there is still new growth, even if it isn't flowers. And the old stuff is still hanging around. But even the "old stuff," while not obviously growing and alive, is capable of growth.

From those old pods can spring new trees. New trees that produce beautiful flowers that inspire poets and artists to go about the woodlands.

And it is good.


  1. I love this so much, Karen. What a beautiful interpretation.

    I have to say I've really enjoyed your redbud pictures, they've been very timely for me this year. In our old house we had a cherry tree in the back yard, and all of the petals fell down from it like rain on the day that we held the memorial for my father. Ever since, that cherry tree (and by extension, flowering trees in general) became something of a symbol to me, first as a deep reminder of my loss as every year the buds bursting into bloom signified the coming of another anniversary, but then eventually a symbol of comfort and remembrance.

    This is my first spring without that old cherry tree, so your redbuds have seemed especially poignant.

  2. You couldn't be more right about the redbud and the way we as people can evolve, as we choose. (hugs)