Seeing the blossom

Yesterday the sun shone over Oxford's May morning celebrations (unlike last year, which was somewhat soggy). As the Oxford Tube bus trundled down the A40 I began scanning the roadside trees and bushes. Would there be any sign of the may, the white hawthorn which always flowers at this time of year? Or in this late spring, would the may end up flowering in June?

And yes, the may was there, frothy, cotton woolly splashes of white between so much greeny-gold, proof that spring - at least as far as this tree is concerned! - is proceeding rather nicely.

Today I took my camera with me as I went to vote in the local elections, walking a route lined with blossom which is normally out at least a month earlier than now. Brilliant blue skies always throw every other colour into sharp, stark relief, and that was certainly the case with every branch joyously thrusting its blossom upwards, while the sunlight transformed acers into fire. After such a long, punishing winter we are certainly being rewarded with the sunshiniest, springiest of springs!

The other day, as I turned out a desk drawer, I so fortuitously found something I had cut out of The Guardian last year. It was a snippet from an interview the playwright Dennis Potter, then dying of cancer, gave to Melvyn Bragg in spring 1994 - an interview published under the title Seeing the Blossom. In this extract, Potter spoke of how the imminence of death gave his experience of the world a heightened sensitivity...

At this season, the blossom is out in full now... and instead of saying 'Oh, that's nice blossom'... last week looking at it through the window when I'm writing, I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it. The nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know. There's no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance... The fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.

A lovely, poignant reminder to see and glory in the present tense, and to celebrate the wondrous beauty of the blossom, not so much for its future promise, but simply for its gift to us in the here and now.