Brave Little Blossom

I struggled to write last weekend’s post. I manage a team of NHS Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Therapy Assistants. On Friday evening I had been given the instruction that we would start redeploying staff to adult services on Monday morning.

I knew that the team were already frazzled after a frantic week of reorganising our service so that we can continue to meet the needs of our service users. I didn’t want to plunge them into uncertainty and doubt on Friday evening, when their questions may not have a readily available answer. The conversation would wait until Monday.

Last weekend felt quite lonely. There was a fair bit of introspection. I hovered over things, but didn’t get stuck in. I flitted from one thing to another.

I noticed the pear tree was about to burst into blossom.

The pear tree, about to burst into blossom

I love pear blossom. I love all blossom. That something so delicate, so fragile, so vulnerable, can emerge just when the world is at its most unpredictable. The blossom might open to warm sunshine, but if the sun dips behind a cloud, the blossom is left shivering and cold. There might be sun, but there might be rain, hail, buffeting wind.

The blossom comforted me. It is the same this year as every other year. April brings blossom.

The tight little balled buds are just starting to relax. To inhale and exhale, seeing how this world feels. Uncoiling their little petals just a little bit, relaxing into it, breathing in and out.

One or two brave little blossoms have softened and opened enough to reveal their pink stamens, and their central stigma. They peep out of the protective petals. They are just assessing the situation. Wondering if it is safe to come out.

Pear blossom, just peeping.

By Monday I was ready for action.

My team were also ready for action. They blew me away. Each and every person has a reason to be afraid: a vulnerable family member, children, partner, elderly parents. Every person worries that their skills may not be up to the task.

And yet, we are adaptable. We can do this.

This week, each and every person drew on their past experiences, their wider skills. They volunteered their services willingly, despite their fear.

Just like the blossom. One by one, despite it being chilly, despite the situation being uncertain, these little buds are breathing themselves open.

Together we can do this.

It is easier together. We might all be doing slightly different things, but we are in this together. When one of us has a wobble, the others are here.

Here are some pear blossom flowers, just opened. The pink stamens are tender, huddled up, not quite knowing what to do with themselves.

Pear blossom, just opened.

Within a few hours, they have settled into their space. Their stamens separate out and become firmer. The flower has strength and structure. It can take its own weight, and that of others. They can reach out and know that they are not alone.

The flowers give their pollen to the bees. They are visited by honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, busy bees. There might be the odd wasp. There might be a butterfly.

Pear blossom, buzzing with a bee.

The blossom greets and treats them equally. The pollen and the nectar is there to be shared.

The petals are wide open now. As the pollen is rubbed away from the stamens, they are revealed to be steely black.

Pear blossom, once the pollen has been rubbed away by bees.

The stigma stands proud at the centre of the flower. It is prepared and ready to receive the pollen from the bees. There is cooperation and openness, to serve the community.

Over the next couple of weeks, the blossom will be brilliant. It will shine and sparkle and shiver. It will open with the sun, shrink back with the rain.

The pear blossom will be joined by the apple blossom, the damson, the greengage, the cherry. They will sing out to one another from across the garden.

In hedgerows up and down the country, you will see the end of the blackthorn blossom and the start of the wild cherry and wild damson blossom. Soon there will be hawthorn and elderflower. One blossom overlaps with the next, handing over the baton. In gardens across the UK there will be flowering cherry of wildest pink. It will make your heart sing.

They all have the same design; they are made of the same stuff. The same five petals, perhaps touched with a little pink. The same fragility; the same steeliness. They all have a job to do. For just a short while, they will open their petals, expose their hearts and share their gifts. They will be rocked and buffeted. They will sing, weep, laugh, give, receive, learn.

Once the blossom has done its job, the petals will disperse. They will leave tiny embryo fruits at the base of each flower. They will be difficult to see at first. As the weeks pass, these fruits will swell. They will be touched by sun; they will feel its warmth. They will find each other, and touch and hug again. They will share their stories.

This post is dedicated to key-workers and their families. Not just the NHS, but teachers, social care workers, emergency services, pharmacists, supermarket staff, farmers and pickers, cleaners, transport workers, volunteers. Anyone who is getting out there, or supporting someone who is out there, putting the needs of the community ahead of their own personal fears. With support from one another, we can do this.

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47 Comments Add yours

  1. What a wonderful post, and such a wonderful metaphor you have created. I especially loved the lines “They peep out of the protective petals. They are just assessing the situation. Wondering if it is safe to come out.”

    1. Thank you Chris. It really means a lot when words and phrases resonate with others.

  2. Tish Farrell says:

    Such resilience – your people and your plants. A brilliant post, Ali. Well done all round.

    1. Thank you TIsh. I hope you are well, and appreciating this spring weather. I imagine you are watching your lime walk with interest. Our lime tree is just about to burst into leaf. Maybe today.

      1. Tish Farrell says:

        I think our limes are a little behind yours. I shall go and check on them today. Added benefit is the vast crop of wild garlic that’s growing alongside. Lots of pesto and soup ingredients 🙂

      2. Ooh, lucky you to have a ready supply of wild garlic! I have my nose poised, but so far nowhere within walking distance that I have managed to detect!

  3. susurrus says:

    Thank you, Ali, for the brave work of you and your team. And then you find time to post pictures and ideas to lift our spirits!

    1. I can’t say it better. Adding my applause and a virtual hug from Canada!Thanks so very much. Stay safe!

    2. It seems like the right time to write. Taking photos makes me slow down and take time to notice too. I have a day off today, and intend to do a lot of sitting in the garden, reading, listening to the birds, and watching the butterflies. Love to you.

  4. That fraught Friday would have thrown anyone off balance; what a splendid metaphor you have mede of the pear and its blossom.

    1. Thank you Derrick. I really appreciate your support.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for a lovely post after a difficult week. Thank you to you and your team for doing valuable work .

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment. xxx

  6. Ali says:

    What a Beautiful Post – it really moved me. thank you x

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know. It means a lot.

  7. Emma Cownie says:

    I love blossom. We have a pear tree and I watch it blossom every year. Sometimes the blossom lasts for weeks, but often it gets blown away in a spring gale before it is fully over – but the pears come anyway. I think the rhythm of nature are reassuring in such uncertain times. We have to carry on because we have to. It helps knowing that you are not alone and all your work is deeply appreciated.

    1. Yes. Your painting posts on instagram are giving me such pleasure, Emma. I know I say it all the time, but I am constantly amazed at how diverse your subjects are. Your paintings make me appreciate the everyday beauty. I was struck by your paintings of shoppers. How precious those scenes now are of everyday life.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Thank you, Ali. Yes, the current situtaion has given them an added poignancy!

  8. Oh! Oh! Oh! What a wonderful post! And now I want to have a pear tree in my garden! (When I get back to the U.K. and actually have a garden that is …). Any idea which variety this is?? I absolutely love it! Katie

    1. Hi Katie, I hope you are well! We don’t know what variety this pear is, as it was planted before we moved here. We worked out that it is a cooking pear. They are very large, fat, and robust. We can eat the pears raw, but they are completely delicious when poached in wine or spiced syrup and then drowned in chocolate sauce.
      I think all pear blossom is beautiful. A variety that gets a lot of praise is ‘Beurre Hardy’.

      1. Thanks! I love the idea of them being poached in wine and then drowned in chocolate! Delicious! As an aside, thank goodness I just re-read what I just typed as I had missed out the word “them” which would have led to a completely different answer!!! Sorry, had to share as it made me giggle! Do hope you’re well and I must have a catch up on your posts as I’m behind. Thank goodness for having some extra time now. Stay well 💕

      2. That made me giggle too. I love typos. There are a few benefits to being in lockdown, aren’t there? I really don’t want to return to hustle and bustle. I would love for us all to appreciate the benefit of slow.

      3. Yes … and just enjoying the simple things much more. I hope we do. I think we shall. I’d like just a glass of wine with a friend or a hug with my boys.

      4. Yes. When we come out of lockdown, those things are going to be so special.

  9. Heyjude says:

    Only you can write like this about something so ordinary like pear blossom and make it seem most extraordinary. Like us. Ordinary people living through an extraordinary time. Well done to all who keep our country moving and put themselves at risk. let us hope that after this the NHS staff (and many more support and care workers) get the pay rise they deserve.

    1. Yes, I do hope that other key-workers, those on a minimum wage, retain the respect they are currently getting, and are able to earn a living wage that is sustainable. There will have to be a shared responsibility for getting people back on their feet. An end to excess, maybe?

      1. Heyjude says:

        Maybe. I’m not convinced that a lot of people will make sufficient changes to their lives voluntarily, but they may be forced into doing so. We will not escape the fall-out from this for some years to come I’m afraid.

      2. Yes, I think we will emerge from this changed. I really don’t want to take for granted the daily luxuries we have always enjoyed. My first coffee in a cafe is going to be savoured.

  10. Thomas Corbin says:

    Thank you for posting these lovely photographs along with your inspiring message. In the states we, too, are in the midst of a beautiful spring – so ironic when one considers the ugliness of the spreading virus. But like the pear blossom we will get through this because of the strength of all the “human blossoms” helping us.

    1. Yes, I had this thought yesterday, Thomas, as I sat drinking a morning coffee in the spring sunshine, with bees buzzing, butterflies flitting and all the birds singing out. Nature lends us such resilience. I do love that we are uniting globally, and we can all identify with this shared experience. A test of our humanity, perhaps.

  11. Jo Shafer says:

    “They peep out of the protective petals. They are just assessing the situation. Wondering if it is safe to come out.” . . . a marvelous metaphor for these days, Ali! And an apt subject, too. The blossoms remind me of our Damson plum trees Daddy cultivated on our place. I use to stand under a tree billowing in white petals, like reflections of white clouds billowing above in azure skies, and imagine I could “see” God’s face.

    1. Blossom against blue sky is one of my favourite sights, Jo. We have one damson tree, which is so precious. Damsons are perhaps my favourite of all fruits, when just collapsed in sugar and a syrup of their own juices. The blossom is the promise of riches to come.

  12. Reblogged this on Happy Gourmand and commented:
    Here in the Okanagan the fruit blossoms are not out yet, much as the impact of the pandemic has not struck us as hard yet as in some places. Ali has written so well about how this touches us all though, and she offers a lovely perspective we can consider, even if we have no gardening desires.
    I hope everyone out there looks to the resilience of the spring shoots they see and remembers we are in this together. And for those “shoots” leading the way – all the front line folks – I add my applause and virtual hugs.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Lovely to see your beautiful blossom Ali thankyou for your blog.My heart goes out to you and your team .I thankyou you all and please KEEP SAFE.

    1. Thank you for your support. It means a lot.

  14. Pam says:

    Thank you for this. Stay well!

  15. Wendy says:

    Thank you Ali for this wonderful blog after such a difficult week.

  16. Ann Mackay says:

    Beautiful post – both words and images – and uplifting too. The courage, determination, compassion and professionalism of NHS staff and key workers truly impresses me. When we are in deep trouble, you all have the strength and resilience to keep us going – thank you!

    1. There is a very special culture within the NHS. Not many people went into the profession for the money, but for the desire to make a small difference to other people. That comes out in the teams, where people are nurturing and supportive of one another too. I am most proud of that.

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        Yes, you should be proud of it. I’ve come across a lot of wonderful nurses and doctors in the last few years of my parents lives. (Mum was a nurse too, and she was always concerned for the welfare of others.) Hopefully the NHS will be properly appreciated now.

  17. A beautiful, thoughtful and inspiring post, Ali. The garden teaches us so much and heals us too. Stay well, stay safe.

    1. It certainly does. I am so grateful for the garden.

  18. Kellie says:

    Love this post, the blossoms are beautiful and the message is the same 👌

    1. Aw, thanks Kellie. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

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