Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Petunia, the Tulip, and the Daffodil (1/2)

Something magical happened in the flowerbed of Mr. and Mrs. Gardener. On this special day springtime, heralded by the fragrant lilacs and the melodious chirping of songbirds, seemed awash in the most glorious palette of pastels, like a French painting or a lover’s dream. The sun looked down in approval, showering the verdant blanket with warmth and love. If you know someone who doesn’t believe magical things happen, I can assure you they’ve never seen this garden.

Mrs. Gardener was the first to make the discovery, and she should have known that something strange was going to happen; for a curious, hyacinth sky bespoke of an unusual occurrence in nature’s rhythmic flow, and the ocean spray that wafted up the craggy hillside and toward the fields seemed to whisper the coming of a precious gift. Paying no mind, she made her way down the stony steps to the garden like any other day. In the distance was the shimmering silver expanse of the sea. As she was wont to do, Mrs. Gardener, especially on a fine day such as this one, would pause before the little wooden gate, gaze out at the water, and breathe in the wholesome air before lifting the tin watering can and going about her daily task. Then she saw it: a bright….red….petunia. The most beautiful petunia she had ever seen, singular and solitary, one of a kind, peeking out timidly from the heather the Gardeners had planted years before.

Now, everyone knows that flowers can’t talk, but this one surely did, and she had many things to say. “Hello. Can you see me? What’s your name? I sure wish I could have some of that water. I like it here!” Mrs. Gardener was startled at first. “And who are you, little one?” Red Petunia explained that she woke up today and found herself amid this garden, she knew not why. “Oh my, oh dear,” replied the woman, her curly chestnut hair waving in the breeze. “Don’t go away.” She laughed at herself. “How silly of me! Of course you won’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back!”

She returned with grumpy Mr. Gardener. He was a different sort. He too would gaze at the ocean, and the heavens above it, but he was searching for something else, the answer to some inexplicable mystery. After adjusting bifocals onto his nose and taking a gander at the little red bud sprouting up before their eyes, he turned to Mrs. Gardener. “This must be the fruit of our labors, wife. Don’t you recall?” Mr. Gardener’s melancholy disposition seemed to evaporate at that moment like dew on a summer morning. “We planted the seed,” he continued. “You’ve been watering it, and now the good Sun has rewarded our efforts hundredfold. This beautiful trumpet-like gem has blossomed in our hearts and will make the world a better place—make my heart a better place.”

The Gardeners told her that they had come to gather fruit from the garden. Red Petunia glanced at her leafy neighbors through a lattice trellis: heart-shaped delights with her same color, sure enough, but bearing tiny seeds. Smoothing her ruffled petals, she said wistfully: “I’m sorry. I don’t have any strawberries.” “You?” Mr. Gardener smiled. “You are more valuable to us than they. Everyone has her purpose in life. Yours, I’m now convinced, is to bring laughter and joy into the hearts of those who enter this garden or perhaps spot you from the stony path.” Red Petunia became ever more efflorescent with these words. “Really? You think so?” A monarch at that moment flittered and fluttered by in a blur of orange, passing over a banana slug laboriously inching its way across the foliage toward a mushroom. “Yes, we do,” echoed Mrs. Gardener, with a voice like one who has seen heaven itself.

Looking down at the cute little petunia, the Gardeners decided she needed a friend. So they planted a bulb and waited…and waited...and waited. Finally, a tall purple tulip grew, and the Gardeners knew immediately that they had another talking flower on their hands, for she announced her “arrival” with a loud voice. Mr. Gardener scratched his forehead. “Behold, a jewel more vociferous than the one before but no less beautiful in its own way!” “What a blessing upon us!” exclaimed a delighted Mrs. Gardener. Purple Tulip required water all the time and close maintenance. This wasn’t the case with Red Petunia, thus offering a clue that the flowers had different natures and needed different conditions to grow.