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Can't Talk | July 21, 2018

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Fucking Tulips

Fucking Tulips
Guest Post

Please welcome back guest writer CenterlineAP for a piece on beauty in surprising places.

Once, one spring afternoon, I turned into my neighborhood and in front of me was the same wall of boulders I’d seen thousands of times.  

I live close to mountains; the land is a dying gasp of what once were barley fields in the rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains. They are mostly covered now in the viselike fist of urban sprawl. I live, quietly, on one of the few remaining plots of former farmland. It’s still that wild mix of barley and alfalfa, sage, and rattlesnake-infested boulders that take a regular beating from the winds of three separate canyons. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass to reach from the city. A lot of twists and turns and gravel—and in the winter, ice, and snow drifts—but it’s home, and by now I could probably make that drive blindfolded (though, of course, I don’t actually).

On one of those turns there is that large, long wall of rock I mentioned. It says, in its own surly way to those who are clearly lost: Welcome to mountain country. Welcome to the last of the mule deer. The pine nuts are edible, as are your cats, which will be eaten by coyotes. If it rattles, stand back.

This one morning I stopped my car dead in the street. That wall I had seen so many times was awash with color. Not with graffiti, balloons, ribbons ,or garage sale posters, but with a mural of scattered tulips bursting at once: reds, oranges, soft purples and yellows so bright it made the eyes ache. It must have been hundreds of bulbs, and, on this random Thursday morning in late April, each one of those bulbs woke up and waved good morning to every stunned car that turned onto the street, including, at this particular moment in time, mine. I thought I’d made a wrong turn. Then it dawned on me: Someone from my same stubborn hamlet had taken time the previous fall to slip a bulb into every single crack and crevice in that barren rock face.

I just stared. A few seconds later, I realized I was crying. Then I was laughing.

I’ll admit it, that week was shitty. And now, absurdly, there were tulips everywhere. They were taking up all the visible space in front of my windshield. Tulips that were so stupidly happy, so ridiculously optimistic in their color, their health, their resilience that I just couldn’t help but cry and laugh. No one honked at me to move. Instead, someone else got out of their car and just stared with the same “what the actual fuck” expression I had. You would think me, the professional photographer, would have taken a picture, but in that moment it just didn’t occur to me to do so. I just wanted to look at it. I didn’t want anything to make me feel like I was at work again. I just wanted to laugh a little longer.

There is something to be said for the people who go out and plant tulips in our communities. For every cruel deed that gets page after page of breathless press: for every robbery, murder, for those acts of terrorism and intolerance, for every unkindness, troll, jerk, and regular asshole—for every crack in the face of some barren mountainside, there are also anonymous citizens going about planting tulips in the cracks even though they know it might be months before they bloom.

I’m just one person. Sometimes, I feel pretty insignificant, vulnerable, and impotent. I see the news. I see things in my own life. I wonder if I make a difference. I wonder if what I do matters or if there is something I can do that matters.

We all have the tendency to feel insecure or diminish the attempts ourselves or others make to brighten our surroundings and improve them. We might giggle at the garden gnome collector down the street. We might wonder why we bother to clean our houses some days. We might say tulips are good for nothing when stacked against megashit like terrorism attacks. We might think our contributions in our circles aren’t as helpful as we wish they would be. Maybe the things we create aren’t enough, the hugs too weak, the friendly emails not enough to bridge the gap between someone hurting and someone recovering.

We should be stronger. Smarter. More involved. But what if the only thing we can do, the only thing we know how to do, the only thing we’re good at, is tulips? What difference does a tulip make?

I can’t speak for everyone that made that turn into our neighborhood that Thursday in April a year or so ago, but for me? It was a lot more than whoever bothered to plant them knows. It made me bust out laughing till tears came from my eyes. Those silly little tulips telling that cluster of boulders to shove it. I work with Olympians. Olympians can be pretty inspiring. Know what else can be inspiring? Fucking tulips.

Now, while I don’t have a crystal ball, I’m willing to believe that maybe whatever you do best is good enough, too, for someone going through something out there. Maybe even just you.

It’ll be worth it.

Go plant some tulips in some cracks, people. (However you interpret that you gutter-minded goobers.)

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