The cherry hung with snow

The cherry hung with snow

It’s finally here.

Pesach. The start of our time in the desert. The beginning of our liberation. For many of us, this year, it’s also the first time when we can move from the time-fog of covid, a time where all markers of change and growth got lost in the gray mist, where we saw each other only on Zoom, from the chest up, and instead we can sit with the people we love.

For me, it means that once again I can be not only with my children and grandchildren and siblings and nieces and nephews and cousins, so many cousins, but also with the aunt and uncle with whom I’ve had Pesach for more decades than I could have imagined, back when it all started.

They were at the seder with my grandparents, and with my parents. They remember them. And Pesach is about many things, not only liberation but also memory.

It’s about time as a spiral. It’s not quite the circle; we don’t exactly get back to the same place every year. We go by it; we can see it, we can wave to it, sometimes we can smell it — particularly at the seder, when wine and cinnamon and chicken soup and hardboiled eggs and chocolate and turkey and parsley have their own special once-a-year aroma — but we can’t touch it again. We can’t quite fix it. We can’t quite get it back. But we can remember it.

For two years, we were denied that bittersweet joy, but now we have it back.

It’s full spring outside now. Every day there’s more green. Every day the flowering trees are more glorious; every day brings them closer to losing their flowers. It’s all so complicated.

A few days ago, as I took my dogs through the park, I saw a piece of paper, encased in plastic, taped to a bench.

It was a typed-out poem by A.E Housman, “Cherry hung with snow” from “A Shropshire Lad.”

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.

Okay, it’s a little metronomic. It’s about a 20-year-old, already fearing that he’ll run out of time because he has only 50 years left out of the 70 the Bible has allotted to him. (Yes, I know.) And it’s about Easter, so by definition not for us.

But it’s also about time passing, about the transience of things but also their recurrence, and Easter, like Pesach, is a springtime holiday.

And most of all, it’s about beauty. I also want to see the “cherry hung with snow.” And so did the anonymous type-and-taper who hung the poem in the first place.

We know that hideous things are going on in the world now. We know that evil is real — not only was it embodied in Hitler and the Nazis, but Putin, too, seems to be infected with it. We know that cities are being leveled and children are being killed.

We hold all that in our hearts, and we also can see the cherry trees hung with snow. All these things are true, all at the same time.

We hope that all of our readers will be able to see cherry trees and smell their seders and glory in their family and friends, together around a table at last.

We wish every one of our readers a liberating and a zissen Pesach.