Friday, April 9, 2010

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

One day Purple Tulip overheard the Gardeners talking about the sandy shoreline beyond the strange meadows and just over the horizon. Everyone knows that a flower can’t walk. But this one cried and cried, demanding in an imperious tone to go beyond the garden. Impossible, you say? Not for this magical flower that could do anything she put her petals and sepals to. Mrs. Gardener handed her companion a trowel and earthen pot. “Such Wanderlust in this one,” she remarked. “Take her across to other fields.” Mr. Gardener was befuddled but did as he was told. He transplanted Purple Tulip to a place where the Cherry Trees blossom in majestic splendor before the rising sun. They went down to the shoreline and the sand dunes, where the African daisies grow. Despite her transplantations, however, she never forgot that she belonged in the Gardeners' flowerbed.

Another season came and went before yet a third arrival from the great flowerbed in the sky graced the Gardeners’ humble abode. Unexpectedly, a bright….yellow….daffodil popped up. This little flower had wide eyes, so to speak; she was inquisitive about everything. “Mr. Banana Slug, why are you here?” she asked. “What makes a petunia a petunia and not a tulip?” she queried. Yellow Daffodil wanted to know the inner workings of the garden, of nature in general, and she wouldn’t settle for half-answers. “What a curious little flower,” observed Mrs. Gardener. Now, everyone knows that flowers don’t have such curiosity about the world, but this one surely did. She would find contentment in studying the patterns in the flowerbed and the landscape beyond. Unlike Purple Tulip she didn’t have to be the center of attention. In contrast to Red Petunia she was more cautious in her words. She developed theories to account for beauty in the world, as Mr. Gardener looked on with pride and Mrs. Gardener gleamed with approval.

Everyone knows that flowers bloom in the spring and leave at a certain time. But these flowers were stubborn, and remained throughout the seasons. The Gardeners continued to water the garden, though the flowers, having stubbornly clung on day in and day out, through every season, from year to year, were self-sufficient. When it was cold in the winter, the Gardeners provided warmth. When it was not, they provided shade. “How wonderful you are,” Mrs. Gardener would say each and every day. “You have given us such joy.”

Mr. Gardener wondered and wandered, trying to solve the big riddles of life; yet for all his toil he could not unravel his purpose in life. He wanted to be a florist and take better care, more loving care, of his three prized flowers, but he knew this could not be. As the Red Petunia, Purple Tulip and Yellow Daffodil had their respective natures, he did too. All he could really do was simply cultivate his garden with his life companion and count his blessings—all three of them. Perhaps someday he’d unearth life’s mystery; in the meantime the magic flowers put more life in his soul than he had ever given to them. As the seasons formed years and the years turned into decades, and as the decades stacked up like the bricks around the Gardeners’ rose bed, Mr. Gardener became greyer and slower, his eyes heavier, his back more hunched. One day he fell to the ground, his hand still at the plow, and the earth received him.

Mrs. Gardener took solace over the loss of her companion with her continual work in the garden. She had tried to solve the lesser riddles in life and thereby made more headway than her husband. She came to realize that each of her children is different and requires different conditions to grow. Indeed, even the wayward traveler who might chance upon the garden would note that each flower looked different, acted differently, and thrived on different soil, and yet each was beautiful in its own way.

Mrs. Gardener shared an unbreakable bond with the three special blossoms of the flower garden. She had kept them from harm. Sometimes it rained, other times it snowed. When they were thirsty, she watered them; when their foliage needed pruning, she pruned; when the Big Bad Rabbit from hell came, she shooed it away; when the frost came, she provided shelter. When they wept, Mrs. Gardener wept. But the appointed time came when the old woman, like her companion before her, breathed her last. Everyone knows that a garden can’t grow without a gardener. But not long thereafter something magical happened. And if adults tell you that there is no such thing, tell them this story. For each flower dropped its seedlings and gave rise to yet more talking flowers. Soon the number of talking petunias, tulips and daffodils increased to such an extent that you could hear them chattering all the way from the other shore. Life is a mystery and love deeper still. Where does it come from? Well, that, no one knows.