Syracuse University Magazine

The Unfolding of Spring


After enduring an especially brutal winter—even by Syracuse standards—it’s nice to finally welcome the unfolding of spring. While February delivered us the coldest month ever here in recorded history and snowdrifts inched above my garden fence, I often found my thoughts shifting from shoveling snow to mowing lawn and tilling the garden as I desperately awaited the greening of the countryside and blossoming of fruit trees.

And for a true blast of positive reinforcement, all I had to do was look at images in this issue of the magazine of the Tree of 40 Fruit, the bedazzling creation of College of Visual and Performing Arts sculpture professor Sam Van Aken. For several years now, he has grafted branches of numerous varieties of stone fruits onto stock trees, providing a kaleidoscope of blossoms as the trees grow and mature. Van Aken has received a good deal of national media attention for this blending of science and art, and we should all appreciate and enjoy the fruits—and flowers—of his labor.

Along with looking forward to seeing the Tree of 40 Fruit display on the Shaw Quad, I anticipate the sight of redbuds and other flowering trees splashing color into my walks around campus. It’s moments like these that give an added dimension to the routines of our daily lives. After all those monochromatic days of winter, there’s nothing like focusing on the changing hues of the landscape. Crocuses, daffodils, forsythia, lilacs, tulips—bring them on! Even those pesky dandelions, which I’d much rather see pop up and overtake my yard than watch the final remnants of a grimy pile of snow deteriorate into extinction.

Sadly, we are often too hurried or preoccupied with other thoughts to enjoy the offerings of the natural world around us. Many of us are too plugged in, tuned out, or smart phone obsessed, heads and eyes tilted downward, to savor the seasonal shift that can brighten a day without any assistance from an app. Mother Nature puts on quite a show for us at this time of year and taking it in is well worth the time, whether you’re an astute observer who is skilled enough to stagger the flowering of plants in your garden, or just someone who glances up at the surroundings and decides it’s an opportune moment for a selfie with a flourish of color in the background. Either way, enjoy the show while you can.

Jay Cox