Amelachier / Serviceberry / Juneberry / Shadberry / Saskatoon berry - this is a plant that goes by many names. Not only does it burst into the loveliest ephemeral white flowers in mid-late May, but it also fruits in July, with tasty berries. The berries don’t have a strong flavour, but they’re good - if you can get to them before the birds do. You can use them as you would blueberries - they’re good on yogourt, or in muffins or smoothies. Serviceberries are in full bloom right now, and as I’ve been seeing their beautiful flowers everywhere, I started to think a little bit more about them.
Gardener’s Question Time has been a favourite podcast of mine for several years now - it’s a weekly British panel show that has been on air for 75 years, and it never fails to bring me a sense of calm, and a feeling of connection to a community of keen gardeners. I learn something new with every episode. It’s my go-to podcast when I don’t know what I feel like listening to, or when I feel like I need a “forgiving” one - one that I don’t necessarily need to pay full attention to.
One of the plants that panelist Christine Walkden often recommends and regularly sings the praises of on the show is Amelachier. Of course, she pronounces it “amelanchi-ah” - part of the pleasure of the show is listening to the wonderful accents. I must have heard her recommend it at least twenty times before I realized that it is what I know as Serviceberry. I forget exactly how I made the connection - she must have given another of its names - but I realized that this prized tree that was regularly praised for its light, airy, open manner, its white fluffy spring flowers and the edible fruit is the very same ubiquitous Serviceberry that grows wild here in Nova Scotia - in ditches and roadsides and field edges. It was also mentioned in a recent episode of Gardener’s World, where one of the hosts mentioned planting them in his new garden. This contrast between how they view the plant - as a special one worth seeking out and adding to the garden - and how I saw it - as a commonplace wild plant that I didn’t even give much thought to - got me thinking about how our perceptions truly are what inform our opinions of the world around us. And how we can choose to change our perspective and thus, change our experience.
Then I started thinking about other things that go unrecognized, unnoticed, unappreciated, just because I’m used to them. How often is it that we fail to recognize the beauty and uniqueness of the things (physical and intangible) of the people and the world immediately around us? They fade into the background just by virtue of being so commonplace - but all it takes is a change of perspective and they become not only noticeable, but special, and valued.
It is so easy to wish away the circumstances that we’re in the midst of, because what stands out to us are the difficult parts, and as humans, we want those to go away. We tend to feel that in the future, things will be easier. But despite the inevitable difficulties in every season of life, there are often good things, too - and that is what I want to choose to focus on. Fortunately, choosing to focus on those good things and actively practicing gratitude makes the difficult parts of life easier to handle. I listened to an episode of On Being recently with Christine Runyan, and she talked about how gratitude functions to reroute our brains from looking for the negative. It was such a good episode - reassuring and comforting. And it also served as a reminder of the very real difference that practicing gratitude can make in our lives. And gratitude begins with noticing.
Noticing can be as literal as looking with your eyes at the world around you, but you can go as deep as you’d like. What things about the place where you live would you miss if you were to move? What about the season of life that you’re in right now - what would you miss, looking back? Are there characteristics of loved ones that you take for granted because that’s just who they are? Are there wonderful things about your very own self that it might be worth recognizing, celebrating and remembering? (There are, I promise.)
I really enjoy thinking about plants and life in this way, and I write all of these things to myself as much as to anyone else - all of these reminders that I need. Plants have so much to teach us - even the humble, remarkable Serviceberry.