This winter’s afternoons have been gray clouds, rain and cold. For a month now, the blue sky has hardly appeared and on the tree in front of my window, only one leaf remains – a solitary memory of times full of color.
I put on a coat and go out to look for something simple that will bring comfort in the face of the news that reaches me about distant friends (so many people facing pain with dignity and courage). I buy tulips. Yellow like little sun buds. They brought – wrapped in silk and gold petals – an invitation to coat courage with beauty, that hard metal of our internal armor.
When they arrived, the tulips were closed, just out of their bulbs. In a few days they opened up to the world, expanded their petals, grew old and died. Slowly they bowed towards the ground and dropped the soft petals onto my work table.
The metaphor of this cycle made the Epicurean conclusion almost inevitable. Without a word, it taught me that life can be filled with grace just by being in the world, in simplicity.
Even as I write this, I realize that at the end of their short lives, tulips have become much larger than they were when they were young. They opened up to the world, became stars, filling the house with their vivid tones.
The bulbs have already been removed. They are saved for next spring, when new flowers will sprout. They are the inheritance they left me – the promise of renewal, the hope of rebuilding what was broken: in bodies, in souls, in feelings.
I see the tulips expanding their petals like birds ready to fly and I can’t help but think that immense courage is needed to live fully. The flowers in the final phase of life are radiant; although some of them were broken, they were never so beautiful. Their vulnerability fills the eyes with pure charm.
Soon they will be gone, leaving a trail of good memories in the world. It is the law of impermanence and donation that teaches us about gestures of love.
The memory of my friends’ pain comes back to me. I think of suffering, so democratic for reaching all humans. No exception, inevitable. It remains for us to learn to deal with it.
Finding a meaning for existence impels us to face difficulties with renewed courage. The tulips whisper to me that it could be something simple. In fact, they are flowers with no other use than filling our eyes with beauty. It’s a great role to play – I think – to beautify life.
If even tulips have a purpose in the world, I believe that we, the so-called rational ones, do too. Finding it is our task. A task that will put extra doses of courage in our hearts, tired of so many battles.
The most humble existence can be illuminated when one of the noblest feelings, gratitude, springs up. It is recurrent in our world that, as the old proverb said, the ungrateful forgets a thousand meals, but does not forget the one that was missing.
Sometimes, just focusing on what we have rather than what we lack can bring about a feeling of contentment. I take time daily to reflect on the blessings in my life and find myself so grateful for the simple things that come to me. Not material illusions, but the tiny flowers of everyday life in which the true happiness of my heart resides.
(Translated by Ted Stroll)