Last week, my son came home from school, proud of the new word he learned that day.
"Dad, I know what vernal means," he beamed.
"You do? What does it mean?" I replied.
"Well, it's kind of like spring," he correctly answered.
I smiled and asked him, "Do you know that plant in the backyard that has the yellow-orange, spidery flowers on it? The witch hazel. Well, its real plant name is Hamamelis vernalis, which means it's a witch hazel that blooms in the spring time."
The vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) not only blooms in the spring, but is the true harbinger of the new growing season in my garden. Along with the Helleborus sp. that bloom at its feet, the witch hazel is the first color that wipes away the dull tones of winter.
So today, on a day when I woke with a serious longing for spring, I visited my witch hazel to feel the hope held in each of her pubescent buds.
I smiled broadly when I saw her branches covered with these tightly wrapped flowers-to-be, holding in the hope contained in each new season. I don't know how many of them will bloom this year, nor if they will trend more red or yellow. I don't know when the first bud will open, nor how long they will last. But I do know that my witch hazel -- my H. vernalis -- helps me believe that no matter how dreary, dark and endless the winters of our lives may seem, that spring does come. She protects the history of each year underneath her bark, but this simple shrub is more than anything else a symbol of hope ... of faith ... of tomorrow.