Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Winter Meditation on Tulips by Joan M. Baril





TULIPS of THUNDER BAY
By Joan M. Baril

The snow bends over the garden.  The garden hunches up into the snow.  Below, in the frozen clods and crumbles of earth, the tulip bulbs are waiting.  They are probably thinking, “This is so not Holland.  There, we did not freeze to the core, there we loafed in the soft earth and waited for spring.”

But every tulip has a living heart, a heart determined not to give in, determined to wait out the confusing darkness, determined to endure the cold, unlike the cowardly crocus who are all, at this minute, pouting and giving up, sulkily deciding not to grow or considering a sparse and grudging turn on stage.   But the tulip heart is steady and ready, and waits for the thaw.

And when it comes, they will spring into the green life, burst into their respective colours and wave to the sun.

Inside the bulb, deep in the heart, is a tiny bit of DNA which contains their entire history: the sunny stony slopes of Turkey, the slow world of design and change in the flat fields of Holland, the exhilarating days when a single bulb was worth a fortune on the Dutch stock market, the famine days of 1945 when the Dutch dug them up to eat and now, the calm days of owning the northern hemisphere in the spring.

 A tulip is cyclical.  It blooms, dies down, takes in sun and regrows, rests and cools and blooms again.  It sends out odd sweet scents, licorice or honey or pale mown grass and entices bees and gives pleasure to the gardener.  If a freak May storm should arrive and cover the buds with coats of clear frost, the tulips nod and smile for no harm will be done and the experience will be exhilarating.  . 

 For a week or six, the tulips own the garden and get the music going.  They bring in the perennials, the lilacs and the iris, and, just as the peonies fall apart and the lilies arrive and the delphiniums are gearing up, the tulips’ lips curl back and they open wide, wide to the air and, almost turning themselves inside out, they release their petals one by one.   The tall thin leaves are all that remain and these fiddle for position, twist for the light until, one day, they slowly brown and droop away for the year.  All the orchestra is in tune now and the gardener is tired of gardening and sits in the sun and lets the weeds grow if they dare.  She makes a dozen cups of tea, chats with her friends and reads books. 
 
And now, in November,  the tulip bulbs,  fat and buttery, sleep is the ice cold earth and contemplate another winter and another spring.

  

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