Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens April 2023

Watching the earth come back to life never gets old! I could spend the whole day exploring my
neighborhood landscapes observing all the different botanical phases of new life. And even more
time researching the gifts of each plant and how its unfolding is interconnected with, and
supports, the environment. In a world that creates so much empty hype, spring is actually worth
the wait! Our April plant is the Forsythia, one of nature’s first harbingers of spring. When I’ve
driven anywhere in recent weeks, I’ve been greeted with sunny yellow pods, all shapes and sizes,
emerging here and there amid all the brown. For those of us who love spring, the Forsythia is a
heralding trumpet section. It’s no wonder this plant symbolizes anticipation!

Anticipation and the natural world work in tandem. I don’t think there is any time during the
year when I’m not anticipating one or more of Mother Nature’s hat tricks. Forsythias in bloom,
sometimes referred to as the “Easter Tree,” bear the hope and good news of early spring.
Anybody who has been through difficult Pittsburgh winters in the past knows how unbearable
those last weeks of ice, slush, dirty snow and potholes are. The Forsythia breaks through winter’s
icy veneer announcing brighter days ahead. I remember riding home from work on the bus years
ago, looking out the window through everything late winter has to dish out, and smiling at seeing
the “Easter Tree” in bloom. One of the keys here, too, that carries through both the Forsythia’s
real time lifecycle, and its plant symbolism, is that whatever one may be anticipating usually
doesn’t happen overnight, which, of course, allows anticipation to build. In fact, Forsythia plant
folklore says, “Three snows after the forsythias bloom,” meaning, when the Forsythias bloom, we
still have 3 snows to go before we’re done with winter. This year, I’m counting.

This faithful and sunny symbol of hope and anticipation got me thinking about our life’s
“Forsythia moments.” We all have them: telltale signs of hope, when you really need them, in the
midst of illness, drudgery, struggle, trial, tribulation, or a dark time in your life. You see, hear, or
feel one of these signs and you know, for sure, that the tides are changing, and you can now
happily anticipate a change for the better. In a genuine Forsythia moment, your hope is
strengthened by your new anticipation of something good in the works. Whenever a loved one
falls ill, we constantly look for signs of recovery. She’s eating, she’s sitting up in bed, she slept
through the night. All genuine Forsythia moments in a sick person’s journey to health. All
generating positive anticipation of a return to health, and/or good spirits. Where do Forsythias
bloom for you? And how? In anticipation of more freedom? Of healing? Of less suffering? Of
forgiveness? Do they ever arrive through another human, mother nature, or an unexpected gift?
“Forsythia moments” are usually very supportive and positive. They rarely come easy. But they do
come, and they do offer us a reason to give thanks, every time.

By: Jessica Giannotta – Horticulturist