Throughout a dark, frigid, gray winter, the tree branches around us look spindly and lifeless. They look that way, but of course they aren’t.

At the end of each branch are buds–leaf buds and flower buds that are packed so densely they have excluded any moisture that would cause harm during a bitter freeze. These buds survive the winter, loaded with potential for life. They are literally so packed with nutrition that wildlife feed on them throughout the lean season.

I take inspiration from these buds–some smaller, some larger; some colorful, some plain. Some clustered, like this bunch on a red oak in the middle of the Great Circle, a place I like to go when I’m happy or sad, feeling clear or confused, centered or impatient. Especially during the long winter.

The buds on the trees are always a bright spot. Life is here. And it moves at its own time, not mine. When daylight increases to a certain point, and the temperatures warm, and the tree receives the right signals, it will draw up moisture from its roots and send it to these buds. They will expand and open. In their time, not mine.

Have a bright spot to share? Send it to Managing Editor Julia Lerner ( Tell us about the moment that made you smile in under 200 words, and try to include a photograph