Breaking Wide Open

I love flowers. And they love me. 🙂 Yesterday they facilitated a beautiful breaking open of my heart. It was the kind of heart-break that explodes constrictions and opens the space where new worlds are born. I was in awe of the grace.

It was Easter Sunday and we were driving toward a church when I saw a stretch of Cherry trees along the road. I noticed the blossoms were done for the year. I love Cherry blossoms so much. They are so light and generous, so abundant and crazy happy. I love that they are pink and white and fluffy and soft, and that some of them grow in the shapes of hearts. I love that they make ridiculously prolific canopies of heaven-scents. I photograph them every year and always end up standing for long, long pauses under their branches, looking up, soaking in their beauty and softness.


But the branches of these along the road were now looking spiky and awkward, almost like that in-between phase that babies and adolescents go through where their faces don’t really look like them. When they’re too much in transition to look or feel normal, and temporary homeliness sets in. When they just haven’t landed in the brilliance of their newness yet, and they look kind of funny.

So here were the Cherries and their awkward, adolescent branches – pokey with bright green slivers where the blossoms used to be, but no leaves yet. Awkward and in-between.

Thinking on the Cherries made me think of John Duke’s setting of A.E. Housman’s poem Loveliest of Trees. It’s about a 20-year-old and his musings about the probable seventy year span of his life, which means he would have only fifty more years to see the Cherry blossoms. The poem goes like this:

                                                                   LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now

                                                                   Is hung with bloom along the bough,

                                                                   And stands about the woodland ride

                                                                   Wearing white for Eastertide.


                                                                   Now, of my threescore years and ten,

                                                                   Twenty will not come again,

                                                                   And take from seventy springs a score,

                                                                   It only leaves me fifty more.


                                                                   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.

Beautiful, isn’t it? So I looked up a youtube of someone singing it, because I love the song and always loved teaching it to voice students, and when the callow young man with the warm and full baritone voice got to the line about “Fifty springs are little room,” I burst into tears. Literally. Instantly. Crying hard and shaking with the sobs.

You see, in that moment I was bearing the tension of being human. I know you know this tension. Some days you just feel DONE with life – with the struggles, the pains, the sadnesses. You feel like being alive is too much to bear. And other times the thought of not having this life is equally painful. So in the midst of my “I’m done being human!” feelings, the thought of only being able to see Cherry blossoms fifty more times made me weep. Sometimes it’s excruciating to be here. Sometimes it’s excruciating to imagine not being here. Sometimes it’s so painful to see someone you love in decline and loss. And sometimes the thought of being without them is unbearable.

You know the most beautiful part? How the flowers and the music broke me open in tears. That was what my spirit longed for – to feel everything, everything that was side by side and in total contradiction, and just to feel it. Not to make either side inside of me right, or more meaningful or true, but simply to feel and know it all. That flower-burst in me opened up such amazing awe and wonder and tenderness. The constriction of the past 2 weeks moved into a whole new flow.

I was so grateful for the poem, the music, the blossoms, and the tears. Oh so grateful for the tears! Imagine a world where everyone would welcome their tears with such gratitude that it was a celebration. Where if someone was crying in a public place, anyone around would think “Oh, they’re crying!” with the same delight they might think “Oh, they’re laughing!” Because what opened up through my tears and throughout the day was a blessing and awareness of cosmic proportion that still moves me to awe, and which continues to expand and radiate. All because of blossoms and tears. All because of love.

Would you let yourself fall apart into love today, or whenever the flood of tears comes? They’re so beautiful, your tears. Here’s a question for you: What if your tears are love? And what if their free-flow is so beautiful it makes the angels sing? Wouldn’t you want to hear it, and to sing along?


Posted on

March 28, 2016


  1. Jane Winter

    Oh yes, thank you for sharing and reminding us that nature can brack us wide open.

    • Christine Elder

      I know you know, Jane! Wide open, for sure. Love you!

  2. Denise Keenan

    Thank you ChristEl for sharing the celebration of life and love that you are. My heart is rockin’ with ecstatic cracking open-ness right now and tears flow. Yes, it’s all blissful and tragic and we are SO blessed to have it all, to be all of it,aren’t we? Such love for you, dear angel!

    • Christine Elder

      Yes and Yes. Love you, too, Ashtara!

  3. Ellen Bacon

    Dear Christie,

    Thank you so much for this beautiful, profound self-revelation.Your writing is as delicate and lovely – and full of light! – as the cherry blossoms; and your photography, as always, is exquisite!

    Love to you – Ellen

    • Christine Elder

      Thank you, Ellen, and you are so welcome! Love you, beautiful.

  4. Allison Hamilton

    This is simply beautiful; I could FEEL it all, like you wrote – painfully, FULLY, amazingly FEEL. Thank you for putting this into such evocative writing. It fits me perfectly right now.
    Love to you, Christine!

    • Christine Elder

      You are so welcome, Allison! I can feel your beautiful heart and the amazing space of you. Love you!


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