by Kleitia Vaso

(after the Brothers Grimm)

The first sign of spring was a bright red bulb. Before the sun, before the warmth, the first hope that more colorful days were to come was precisely this vivid splotch of color. Imagine how beautiful it looked, alone in a sea of green, no other flower to rival its beauty. As the sole carrier of spring, it was constantly observed as every slight movement of its petals indicated the temperature and mood of the present day and those ahead. Yet, its lone reign could not last forever. Life does not offer too many moments of splendor without the accompanying heaviness of its eventual loss. Inevitably, other colors began to emerge, shyly, not quite as flamboyantly as our red diva. Pale yellow, purple, pink, smaller and less beautiful companions, which lowered the intensity of our red blossom and its initial effect but still simply served as a background to the brave first flower.

A few days after our red tulip made its first appearance, the hesitating sun who in the preceding months had appeared and disappeared with a magician’s speed, decided to shine with all its might, letting all the creatures of the world – or, the garden, at least – take notice of its potential unequivocal reign for the next few months. Its rays were blinding, shining with a white heat, simultaneously hot and cold, possible only in the northern regions. (The southern ones receive a golden, more tempered light which warms but does not pierce.) The first creature to respond to the sun’s touch was, predictably, the eager red tulip, fully opening its petals, without fear or hesitation. The other flowers kept their petals tightly sealed, skeptical of such an aggressive invitation from the sun. Needless to say, they seemed cowardly and unnecessarily reserved next to our daring friend. In its defense, the day was a beautiful anomaly in a string of wintery days. Even people, forgetting their constant fears of viruses and other problems of a similar magnitude forgot themselves, partially undressing, facing the sun, eyes tightly closed and mouths wide open, absorbing the sun’s rays like hypnotized devotees in front of a cult leader. Yet, if something seems too good to be true, it often is. Something our little red tulip could not have known.

The sun made its grandiose appearance and generously spent itself in one glorious day. Not used to such burning, it withdrew exhausted to give itself more time, a few moments to prepare for war rather than only a short battle. The cold wind and rain of the following days made the sun look like a remote, forgotten exotic fantasy. Fantasies, though sufficient for most humans, left the tulip open and confused, a most unfortunate combination. In vain, it tried to reverse the actions committed by its petals. One by one, the petals began their slow futile movement towards the distant center. Reverting back intact is a nearly impossible undertaking, little children, and one or two petals refused to cooperate. A small loss for a full day of intense happiness.

After a few miserable weeks which almost erased the preceding happiness, the tulip, ravaged by the natural elements, happily witnessed the return of its traitorous but dear sun. Again, careless and impulsive, it opened its petals without a guarantee of constancy and longevity. In the meanwhile, rival pink tulips had gathered their less hasty petals and started to bloom, beautiful but enclosed, stubborn and defiant of the changing unpredictable climate. The sun stayed longer this time but, again, having slightly miscalculated its stamina, was defeated by an unexpected onset of clouds through which its power failed to pierce. Miserable, the tulip witnessed its weary petals dropping one by one. This story of trust and betrayal recurred several times, each one costing our dear Roxanne a few of its petals. Now, while it still stands, it is nearly bald, with two or three petals still resisting, waiting for the sun to feed them and miraculously revive their long-lost friends. Poor hopeful things do not know that surviving, holding on to the stem, is the best they can hope for. Only a few steps away her less regretful friends, the patient, dewy pink tulips remind the no-longer recognizable red flower that spring is only now starting and happiness, a dream and distant memory for our old friend, lies only a few days ahead for them.

A sense of timing is a mark of genius, someone has said or written.

Festina lente, another piece of advice that bears remembering.

by Kleitia Vaso