Snow 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…