Forcing Forsythia

This year, for the first time, we forced forsythia.

Let me explain.

Forsythia is the first plant to bloom in these parts. Its buds begin turning to stunning yellow flowers as the first days of spring arrive.

But this year has been cold.

Much colder than normal. And so the forsythia stayed put, afraid to come out of its plant cocoon, staying inside lest the cold kill or harm it.

We went to my mom’s house for Easter in New York state and she had bright branches of forsythia on her windowsill in a vase. “Your forsythia is blooming” we cried! “Ours still hasn’t come out”

We were desperate for forsythia – a sign of spring, a sign of hope, a sign of new life. The fall and winter felt like they have held so much that is not life-giving, much walking in the dark, feeling around for markers on the journey. We wanted forsythia. We wanted spring.

My mom replied that her forsythia was not yet blooming either. “You know” she said “You can cut the branches and it will bloom inside”. We had no idea.

So we did. My husband cut large branches and we stuck them in water. We forced them to bloom. We brought them in, put them in a warmer spot and in two days we had bright, beautiful yellow blossoms.

We had forced the forsythia to bloom and brighten our lives.

I’m not sure all the lessons in this. But I know this – sometimes, when all around me seems dead and ugly, I need to force forsythia. I need to do something to force growth, to create change, to bring beauty.

When all around us seemed dead, we needed to force forsythia to see signs of new life.

This week marks a new beginning. A healing of Cambridge and Boston, the cities where I both live and work. Since last Monday at 3pm eastern standard time, there has been terror, death, loss, and hopelessness.

It would be easy to continue to drown ourselves in news, to keep track of every aspect of this case, to shout for revenge. But none of those things bring about true healing. Sometimes healing starts by embracing beauty, by voicing gratitude for the amazing signs of life that surround us.

My friend Sara of The Roving Home posted a beautiful picture of her baby girl, Francie on her Facebook wall. The caption above the picture said this:

“Francie at the beach yesterday, making the world better through cuteness.” Francie simply by being made me remember beauty and the gift of life.

As we’re shaking in the aftermath of sorrow and ugly we begin to surround ourselves with beauty – with light and life and all that is lovely. Forcing forsythia to bloom and change us.

And we begin to heal.



25 thoughts on “Forcing Forsythia

  1. Somehow I missed this post … but God’s timing is good as I needed to hear it now – at midnight after a long day of moving my nearly-90 year old grandmother into a memory care facility. Beautiful words: “Sometimes healing starts by embracing beauty, by voicing gratitude for the amazing signs of life that surround us.” And that is exactly what my grandma did when we showed her the new digs. She just said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about having a smaller place.”

    And I am so thankful….


    1. Love that story of your Grandma. Thank you. I’m keeping a gratitude journal this year which I began reluctantly, my pride definitely getting in the way. It is amazing the way my vision begins to change – but oh too slowly!


  2. We lived in Paris for three years many years ago. While Paris is a beautiful city in the warm months, winter is long and cold and grey, grey, grey. We had a large forsythia in the front yard and I remember the joy it brought me that first spring when hope of any warmth seemed lost. We enjoyed three more springs after that, before we moved, and the forsythia always heralded the promise of sunshine. If only I had known I could bring stems indoors to bloom early! I love this post, Marilyn, and the hope it expresses for healing as well.


    1. I hear you completely! I was so glad to learn this after how many grey winters and springs….! I didn’t know that about Paris. Interesting how we build up what a place is like in our minds – forgetting that when we’re visitors we only see one side of it. Thanks Stacy.


  3. that’s why I left the tropical decorations from my daughter’s party hanging, still 2 weeks later-we need those bright signs of life and joy.


  4. Love the post. Watching the news drives me so crazy sometimes. There is only so much I can take, I feel i am getting very brittle lately. There are so many terrible things happening in this world.
    One of my daughter’s friends here is from Boston, she has just withdrawn into herself and asked to be left alone to heal. I think her friends could help her heal though, they are such a loving, caring bunch.
    I have been touched by senseless actions of terror and violence, especially during the Mumbai attacks, but even those happening far away effect so strongly. The world has shrunk so much. We do feel the horror of it all pretty closely.
    The grief must be handled, but in it all nature always sends some note of hope, of life, of a caring God.
    I was going down to the hospital the day after my husband’s operation, I was really low, when at a traffic signal I happened to look up at the top of the eucalyptus trees and saw the leaves moving in a very gentle breeze, like natures caressing fingers were running through them. It seemed like such a sign of God. I carried it with me and the many others that appeared through those days. The painted ladies flying through the spring flowers, the vibrant colours of the spring blooms, even the cool evenings after the days turned warm, all seemed signs of Grace and Caring, like God was saying I am with you.


    1. “Like natures caressing fingers were running through them. It seemed like a sign from God…” This Pari – yes this. And all the sentences after them – signs of a God who cares, who is not removed from his creation. Thank you for your words. Your poetry comes through even in comments. I love that.


  5. hmmm…wonder what would happen if I stuck myself in vase? Would I bloom? I hope so, because I’m tired of waiting for it and am convinced that following the news lately will impede my progress.


    1. I love this – the picture of sticking myself inside a vase is both funny and telling. You bring up such an important point – when does the news become too much, too overwhelming and we need to shut it off? Thanks Trinity for this great image. I’m going to picture myself and in a [great big gigantic] vase today.


  6. You’ve captured reality again, Marilyn. Spring, the blooming of forsythia and other blossoms, late or otherwise is a symbol of the beauty, hope, new life, and all that is to come. Yesterday was the 4th Sunday of Easter on the Christian calendar and a gentle reminder that Easter is all about life, new life, and HOPE. Your photo is beautiful, certainly a stark contrast to other images we’ve seen all week. Thank you.


  7. What can I cut and stick in water to bloom inside my spirit? Often there’s beauty all around but it’s the insides the wreak of death and darkness. I need inner forsythia! I’m desperate for inner spring!


    1. Oh – I get this. I don’t know if you read Trinity’s comment above, but the idea of sticking ourselves in a vase so we can bloom. That’s it. That’s what I need as well.


  8. This is beautiful! I love the part about making the world better “through cuteness”.

    Marilyn, this is a timely reminder for me, just went to a viewing this weekend of a friend’s mom who died of cancer. Combined with the Boston tragedy and other sad things that have been going on, your post was the perfect reminder to bring in a little beauty.


    1. Hillary – thanks so much for reading. I think of you so often and this comment was so welcome. I loved that phrase too! It’s been going through my head all week. Love you Lady!


  9. This brought me to tears. Which is not unusual when reading your blog, but in this case, it felt especially personal on several levels. Thank you, Marilyn.


    1. Oh Sarah – that picture meant so much to me. And I have always been inspired by your love of, and ability to create, beauty – so to see Francie in all her lovely innocence, in all her ‘cuteness’ was perfect. Thank you.


  10. I am so jealous. I have been waiting for a sign that the forsythia have survived, but as yet, nothing! BUT here in Minnesota, the grass is green, and the snow is almost gone. WOOHOO. It’s been a long one. I will put my artificial forsythia in a vase this morning and leave it until the real onces begin to bloom. LET IT RAIN!


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