Shadows of Azaleas
Even in years when a less mild season sweeps snowflakes onto our lawns, leaving perfect white blankets of snowman building material, winter makes me long for the azaleas of Northside. I miss waking up to a glimpse of hot pink from my bedroom window. I miss wandering around Bryant park, listening to the buzzing of bees as they hover over shrubs full of orange and crimson blossoms. I miss the scent of azaleas that wafts from Brook to Hermitage.
Though I see the elegance in death, I prefer the beauty of birth. Nothing reminds me more of life and living than the mass awakening of the azaleas come spring. As they emerge from their slumber, so does the happiness I'd been hiding in my heart, chilly day after chilly day, from Thanksgiving through March.
When I first moved into my Bellevue home a couple summers ago, the azalea bushes that framed my house looked dead. They stood like bare stick sculptures, with only small tufts of leaves hanging from a few of their twiggish branches.
But I did come to know the azaleas.
Summer left and fall came. While raking the yard one autumn day, my father decided to pluck some of the brown leaves from the azalea bushes “just in case.” When spring arrived, so did the azaleas. Though the bushes were still half-bald, I could not have been more pleased with the color in my yard. My first school year in that little brick house on Fauquier Avenue was coming to a peaceful end.
Winter reminds me of those lonely early days when I was first adjusting to new life in a new neighborhood. It reminds me of that time before the azaleas, when I filled my head with dreams but less successfully filled my hands with action. A little listless, I did not eat or drink or sleep as well as I should have until the azaleas the opened their buds.
In Chinese culture, azaleas symbolize several things, including the expression, “Take care of yourself for me.” During the winter, I often glance at those bare azalea bushes outside my house and, while I might not consciously think it, I know I'm subconsciously making the flowers a promise. I will take care of myself. I will survive the winter with hope, passion, and activity. Come wind, snow, or sleet, I will see the azaleas of spring.