I’m not sure what prompted it, but a few years ago I started really paying attention to the trees and the blooms during late winter/early spring. My guess is we were having a really hellish winter. I was living in Downtown Brooklyn, surrounded by corporate offices, construction, and apartment buildings — there really weren’t many blooms at all.

I traveled from my shoebox apartment on Flatbush to the Subway at Jay Street MetroTech very early each day. I occasionally stopped at Starbucks, and thus missed my intended train. On my walk, though, when it was light enough, I watched the recently planted trees for signs of life. I watched the more mature trees outside my classroom windows when I got to work and turned on the lights. And I watched the (again, newly planted and young) trees outside my apartment window for even the tiniest bud. 

Eventually, there they were! It seems sort of silly in retrospect, but I was psyched. Spring had arrived! Meanwhile, just like this year, winter was very much still lingering.

But everyday, the buds got bigger and pinker. The buds became flowers and leaves. Soon enough, I was dripping sweat in the subway stations once again.

I’m still not entirely sure what inspired me to start looking more closely for those signs of life. I’m no longer living in Downtown Brooklyn, but I’ve since lived in an apartment with an even more treeless view in New Jersey (we faced a courtyard), a farm, and now our very own house with trees aplenty. Wherever I’m living, I’ll watch the trees. Just when we’re all getting desperate, and when the weather threatens yet another nor’easter, the buds will finally appear again.

Watching the trees in this way reminds me to stay present and mindful. It’s the type of perspective that can save me from sinking during the long last stretch of winter. Every year, we all say, “but it’s March! It should be WARM! It is SPRING, isn’t it?” I’ve learned to soak in those days, to enjoy the brisk walks the way I do in the fall. I’ve come to appreciate the changing of the season and the anticipation that spring brings (in the past that has come with the anticipation of a cold beverage, a sultry tan, blue waters, and pink sand, but I digress). Every year has its own perks.

So anyway, next time you find yourself longing for summer, look at the buds! Watch them grow each day, and stay present — there is so much good about now. It’s not always obvious, and we all need all the reminders we can get.

How do you remind yourself to stay mindful? What are your tips? It has never come easy to me.

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