Smack dab in the middle of winter, the teeny, tiny buds began to dream. It was their first little inching toward waking. And it was a very delicate time.
Their mother, who had raised several generations, smiled as she sensed their quickening. Right now, she knew, their dreams were little more than soft, pink wisps. But as the days went by, the color would deepen and take form, casting before the little buds the images of the flowers they would become.
That was how it worked. They dreamed how they would be and followed the images into the tomorrows until one day they found themselves shyly opening into the light of the springtime sun.
But along with her joy at their first sign of life, the mother was a little concerned. A mid-winter thaw had come along, you see, and was lasting a bit longer than usual. The warmth was exciting the buds and speeding up their dreams. Unless they were cooled down a bit, the buds would open too soon.
It was vital, she knew, to let a dream find its direction. If you rushed off in pursuit of it before it had gained some solidity, you risked skipping over some important steps.
She shielded the tiny buds from the sun’s rays as best she could with last season’s remaining leaves. But still, the warmth wore on.
One morning, just as the mother was beginning to feel some genuine worry, a fine, red-tailed hawk settled in the tall spruce above her on the hill. She greeted him and as the two of them talked, she told him about her concern for the little buds growing on her branches.
The old hawk kept a nest in the spruce and he was quite fond of the sight of the azalea blossoming in the spring. He thought for awhile about her plight, and then suddenly he had an idea. He would go speak with his friend, the North Wind.
With a few flaps of his mighty wings, he launched himself from the spruce’s high boughs and, catching an updraft, soared high into the air. Off to the west, he had seen a weather front developing. Maybe his friend could nudge it in the azalea’s direction.
The next afternoon, the mother plant saw the hawk again, circling overhead. “Don’t worry, Little Mother,” he called. “I ordered a treat for your babies, and it should be here any minute.” Then he disappeared from view, laughing.
A treat? The mother was still wondering what he might have meant when the first few snowflakes drifted down from the sky. Then more came, and more. And she opened her leaves wide to cup up the frosty white flakes, smiling with gladness.