There’s no pleasant way to say this.
The tulips are toast.
Those darling buds of late April-ish are no more. They’ve gone from crisp to charmingly curled to crinkly to kaput. I have watched it happen on my sanity-saving daily walks. I have been powerless to stop it. Yesterday, I even saw a stern older woman in an I-mean-business hat wrenching her tired tulips straight out of the ground.
Yet this year, I find myself mourning them not more, but less than usual.
I would not have expected this. We have a thing going on, the tulips and me. It goes back to college, when the huge circle in front of the main campus building bore a sign each winter reading “the tulips are sleeping.” In those deadening days of upstate-NY winter, that was a promise of hope — resurrection, even — for one homesick anthro major. Every late April-ish, the circle would explode with color and life and promises kept.
I’ve treasured tulips ever since, seeing in them entirely too many messages and metaphors and meanings for their little buds to bear. I love them all: the gigantic silly ones that look like circus balloons, the solemn slim ones like rows of mauve shift dresses. And when they crumple each year, so does a little piece of me.
But this year, I’m at peace.
This year, I’m learning — better late than never? — that beautiful things yield to other beautiful things, even if they are also inscrutable and terrifying things.
The cats have been attempting to teach me this for a long, long time.
Ten thousand years ago, c. 2007, I met the first Tabby’s Place resident who would break and bolster my heart, one Drizzle Rosenberg. I was so smitten with this sad-eyed girl that I couldn’t even believe what was happening when I was the one to introduce her to a phenomenal family. I was jubilant; I was also petulant. I wanted Drizzle to be cherished forevermore in a forever home; I wanted her to be confined forever to Suite C where I could adore her.
Drizzle’s early bloom yielded to Drizzle’s full unfurling. Daily visits in Suite C gave way to joyous updates from her true, forever family. Good things fell away so other good things could dance.
Five or so thousand years ago, Tabby’s Place faced one of the most gasping goodbyes in feline history. We all gave lip service to the idea that “no cat is truly unadoptable,” but still, when a family of exquisite awesomeness came for Tashi, we were toast.
Tashi, the wild paraplegic.
Tashi, the inflammatory boweled bonanza of bad boy joy.
Tashi, the tabby who had changed and saved and brought fresh life to our lives in ways no words can ever express.
It all happened so fast, we laughed like those who dream before we could begin to weep. Tashi’s new, true family was so perfect, so boundless in their love and giving, that we couldn’t say no. We gasped; we grieved; the good gave way to the glorious.
We could no more drink daily from Tashi’s well of wonderment at Tabby’s Place. That bold, brash blossom yielded; in its place, we were given the sure knowledge that Great Goodness exists in human form, that love is far larger than we knew, that “no cat is truly unadoptable.”
Our precious Community Room/Lobby region has often convulsed with change. This sprightliest of sites has been deprived of such friends as Pixie, Polly and Inigo — how dare they leave us! — only to fill with Cotton and Twister and Gogi.
Good yields to good. Joy is never over. Seasons know their relay, and no lap gets skipped.
Maybe I’m finally learning that in this strangest of seasons.
Maybe knowing that love is always larger than I know has led me to trust — toe by trembly toe into the tall grass of change.
When quarantine and all its chaos began, five hundred or so years ago, none of us knew what to expect. Frankly, most days I still don’t. But even in the midst of all the fear and loss, good is yielding to good. We are learning just how kind, how patient, how silently heroic human beings can be, even when they hate being called heroes, especially then. We are learning that human solidarity is solid even now; that we will lay low and leave our routines and dress like dentists if it means looking out for each other. We are finding new ways to be together, to be in this together, to give and live and believe in hope.
What comes next? What will “new normal” really mean? In what ways will we open up to each other and to life when “reopening” rolls our way? I shake in my pink sneakers to imagine. It’s best if I don’t imagine, only trust.
First came the crocuses. Their curtain call meant daffodils. They left us to make way for tulips.
And today, the tulips are toast. But we’ve entered the age of irises.
Funny, I never noticed before just how splendid the irises are, all long-haired and shaggy, translucent here, rich as pudding there. They come in butter yellow and nebula purple, and some of them are nearly as tall as trees.
Good yields to good.
I wonder what will come next?