“Beautiful! Are they cherry blossoms?”

“Not just yet. They are plums.”

The conversation plays out again at this time of the year. While the grand cherry blossoms (Sakura in Japanese) are still a few more weeks away, they would overshadow the plums (ume) that are in full bloom. But I have learned to appreciate the ume in its own uniqueness.

Braving the winter chill

The ume braves the winter air as forerunner of springtime.

The frigid air still stings. Similarly, ume blossom season reminds me of a stinging loss, when I got news of the untimely departure of a dear friend. And, under a little ume tree I cried like a baby, pouring out my grief, while remembering our carefree days at the university, and lifting up grieving family and friends in prayer.

Bearing the good news

But the ume blossoms also warm the heart, just as they signal of warmer days ahead.

Ume blossoms break the monotony of winter with their floral display of whites and pinks, as well as a sweet and fruity fragrance that is so comforting and relaxing.

No wonder, the ume blossoms are a Japanese symbolism of hope and renewal. They are nature’s town crier, bearing and spreading the good news that God is once again restoring life and warmth and color to His wonderful creation. They sound the alarm that the spring clock has been reset, in a soft and tender melody of color and aroma.

The family joins an illuminated plum blossom in welcoming spring.