A Tale of Two Tulips

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hSnow still covers the ground, but the tulips are out in full force at the grocery stores. Tilted buckets spill over with vibrant bouquets, repeating rainbows of mixed hues. Those prim tulip buds always catch my eye. They’re so self-contained and demure, but destined to fling open petals in a bawdy display of extravagance. Who can resist?

So, a week or so ago, I wound up with two different bouquets of tulips. I placed one in a vase in the kitchen and the other in the family room.

In the kitchen, the bouquet of purple tulips remained upright day after day, retaining pursed buds and straight stems. From a distance they exuded vitality, but as the days passed, a closer view revealed petals and stems with brown and crumpling edges. They never opened, simply drying and then dying in that nascent state.

In contrast, the mixed tulips grew more and more undisciplined in the family room. The prim buds transformed into bold and blowsy blossoms. Only slightly contained by their glass vase, they sprawled in a burst of color, stems akimbo, petals flung wide revealing previously hidden centers with new, unexpected splashes of color. Then, bit by bit they scattered soft petals onto the table below.

The contrast between these two bouquets struck me and turned my thoughts to aging.  We are a culture that values youth, the budding potential of tulips. Yet, there’s clearly something off in a bunch of tulips that doesn’t fully bloom: Though each purple bud retained its “youthful” air, its potential was never realized. The buds never transformed, and we’ll never know what color lay hidden beneath those tightly furled petals.

I wonder if, when we seek so hard to cling to the vestiges of youth, we avoid the glorious blossoming as well, in all its potential messy exuberance. Something to keep thinking about…

17 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Tulips

  1. Patty McLaughlin says:

    I really enjoyed this, Molly. Such an insightful comparison!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll never look at a tulip the same way, Molly. As Patty said, great comparison. I’m sitting here looking at my daffodil bundles. They never fail to open the minute they hit the water, but some linger longer than others. Thought provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. glenda funk says:

    Your post is a wonderful metaphor. I’ve been reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande and thinking about both youth and aging. I don’t think we as a society will ever stop emphasizing youth culture, but I hope we’re beginning to see aging differently. We can get so hung u on youth that we miss the beauty of growing older.

    Great photos, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      In my own life, I’m recognizing the freedom of aging and find that I’m often more likely to try new things, embrace new challenges, and get a little messy! It’s liberating!

      Like

  4. Amanda Potts says:

    What glorious descriptions in this slice. I found phrase after phrase that I wanted to write down – your take on the tulips (diction, alliteration, personification) is incredibly rich. And the final metaphor really speaks to me. I suspect I will think of this often as I look at tulips over the years to come. Maybe it will help me enjoy my own bursts of color and glorious sprawl as I age. Great slice. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alice Nine says:

    Such a wonderful analogy, Molly! Perhaps I appreciate it even more since my petals are fully open. Just read this poem yesterday. I tucked it away to share later, but it goes so well with your post.
    Let Me Grow Lovely
    -Karle Wilson Baker
    Let me grow lovely, growing old–

    So many fine things do:
    
Laces, and ivory, and gold,

    And silks need not be new;

    And there is healing in old trees,

    Old streets a glamour hold;
    
Why may not I, as well as these,

    Grow lovely, growing old? 


    Liked by 2 people

    • mbhmaine says:

      Oh, Alice, this is perfect! “Let Me Grow Lovely” indeed! I love the rhythm of this poem and, of course, its message. Thank you so much for sharing it–how serendipitous that you just read it yesterday!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very insightful. If only we could eliminate the response of our culture to women aging, it would be easier to allow.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. terierrol says:

    I love the way your writing painted the tulips, and then your connection to youth and aging was thought provoking. Helps explain “Late Bloomers”?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. margaretsmn says:

    I love this. The analogy to aging is inspired. I have been growing out my color and am now almost all grey. I get compliments on it all the time. Much more than when I was dying it. Let yourself bloom!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Margaret. I think that signs of aging, like grey hair, are an important part of the process. For me, they are important visible reminders that time is passing. (I’m also way too lazy to maintain hair color!)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. jcareyreads says:

    Your post is the second I’ve just read that contains a metaphor that keeps me thinking. This is really lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ramona says:

    So much to love in this post. It’s going in my mentor text file. Love the “…bold and blowsy blossoms…”

    Like

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