The tulips stretched open their petals and greeted death. Welcoming, accepting, they bent until one by one the petals would fall to the morning sky and flutter, dancing silently, to the cold concrete of the balcony.
I watch observant with my cup of bitter coffee, still black regardless of the amounts of vanilla creme poured in till it was nuke warm. I watch the petals fall, their red and vivid life crinkling at the edges causing wrinkles in time. The younger Tulips carry on, dew dropped, reaching for the non-existent sun as if through pushing up the earth around them they could reach that forbidden sky.
The petals had fallen off after a few sweet days and left behind the brilliant green life of the stem still prevailing against the odds of natural soil. The others, in their natural habitat, still persevered and now were guarded against the danger of domestic beasts. I left them outside with the wind, the rain, with nature. They opened their petals and greeted death.
A flower is still a flower without the petals. The flowers do not wilt, only the petals wilt. They leave behind the stem and pigment of green; the memory of what they were. They wilt so that the younger flowers, in their brilliant colored hues, can have a chance to be admired and live on.
It takes longer for the stem to let go of life than it does the petals. The stem can hold on as long as it is nourished. They are looked over often, but they know what they were. They know the struggles they had carried with them. They remember how they pushed from the earth to be there in the sunlight for that brief moment. And though invisible to a passing eye, they remember where they had come from and the seeds they left behind for generations. They acknowledge that once born into the world they could be crushed, they could be picked too soon, or they could live on until they are welcome to shrivel at their own pace at the end of their life. And still they are born, and still they grow. They still give their rightful beauty to the earth and sky that admires them, knowing it will pass, knowing it will fade and knowing they will be possibly be forgotten once they wilt on.
What is a flower if it is not a flower? What is a flowers memory if it is not picked and given from lover to lover or left to carry on other generations of it’s kind? What is a flowers purpose if not to give of its own life to others for food, for value? A flower knows that it is a flower.
The Tulips peek at me through this gray day where the light from the sun is only a memory behind the flat sky as pure and cold as the concrete that suckles on the wilted petals. They look at me with their outstretched vivid red arms that greet death in the open sky and I imagine them saying, “Yes, I know I am a Tulip.”
I touched one and the petal fell off into my hand. I thought of Humanity. How each day we live a petal falls from our life. And although we are often passed, although at times we feel we are invisible; we think to ourselves, “I know I am Human.” One day when all the petals fall from age and wilt leaving behind only the green pigment of my lifeline and the memory of what I was, I will still Be. I am, after all, only leaving room for my little ones to be seen in their brilliant hues, to be able to reach the sun with outstretched arms wide… to be able to live on beyond me.
Tulips only survive for one season, Spring, and generally only a month. The unique thing about a red Tulip is that they mean Love in the unconditional way (Agapao- true, perfect, unceasing, undying) as a Rose is conditional with its thorns. I read a story once about how it was believed that the Tulips were created by the death of a man that loved a woman forbiddingly and upon his death there lay a bed of Tulips for each drop of blood that was spilled. A sad Prince & the Pauper tale that didn’t end with the Pauper and the Princess. The Tulips bloomed from the last bit of his life so that she would have something beautiful. I think of this story often. I think of the Tulip that grew one November impossibly under my window when life came close to stopping for me. They are my favorite flower and this is my Spring piece.