I’m standing on my front porch in the early a.m., as is my habit before starting the day. A cup of coffee and a view of the neighborhood serves as my morning news, and it’s all the news I need. The mountains and the creek are right where I left them last night. I need that assurance. It reminds me that even if the world’s a mess, the mountains and the creek are still here and so am I.
My eyes wander to the flower beds below me, and then to the green something poking up from the mulch and dirt. To me, flowers have always been like people I meet once and then again months later—I can place what they look like but can’t seem to remember their names. So ask if me if we have roses and daisies and begonias, and I’ll answer no. I will say, however, that we have red flowers and white flowers and pink flowers.
But these green things shooting up from the earth? These I know.
The tulips are the first spring flowers to sprout around here. Which to me makes them much more than just a plant, but a vital part of nature’s calendar. When you begin to see tulips, you know better times are at hand. No more cold, no more snow, no more gray skies and bare trees. Everything is about to be make new again.
Seeing that first tulip means I’ve made it. That I’ve survived one more long and dreary winter.
That’s how it usually is, anyway. But as I stand there staring down at this first true sign of spring, all the joy and peace I know I should be feeling isn’t there.
Because I’ve cheated, you see. These aren’t the first tulips I’ve seen this year.
The local nursery is owned by relatives of mine, Mennonites with green thumbs. They can grow anything. And thanks to the modern marvels of both science and climate controlled greenhouses, they can grow anything at any time. Even in the middle of the worst winter I could remember.
So in the middle of January and our third consecutive snowstorm, I stopped one day to say hello and buy some tulips. Things were getting pretty blah at that point, and so was I. I was tired of having to endure and scrape by. Tired of the sadness and outright heartache that winter always seems to bring.
I needed an act of defiance. A symbol of hope.
So I brought the tulips home and sat them right in front of the window. I’d stare at them as the snow fell and thumb my nose at Old Man Winter. When they died, I bought more. And then more. I’ve had tulips for about two months now in an effort to thwart the one barren and agonizing season I dread most.
It’s worked, too.
Maybe too well.
Because as I look down upon this miracle of God below me, it doesn’t seem like a miracle at all. It just seems like a tulip.
The rusty tumblers of my mind click into place and open, revealing a very important truth. I had wanted to skip a season. Winter and I have never gotten along, so I thought keeping a steady supply of spring on hand would cheer me. I was right about that. I did.
But I never considered the consequences of having those flowers by the window. I was so consumed with the now that I dismissed the later. I surrounded myself with a symbol of joy and warmth for so long that it became the same old. My tulips lost their luster not by becoming rare, but by becoming familiar.
Which is why next year I think I’ll leave them at the nursery down the road. I’ll let someone else give it a try. I will instead take the seasons as they come. I’ll revel in the sunshine while I have it and then stumble through the months of cold and gray as best as I can.
We’re not meant for perpetual joy, I think. There are seasons in the world and there are seasons in us, and each have their own purpose.
We are made for winter as much as spring. Made for tears as much as for laughter.
And we are here not just to dance, but to endure.