Still Life [version 1]

She grew up here, in this garden.

Rooted in the soil, watered by the rain and heated by the sun.  Not nourished by the sun, exactly, as she had never been brave enough to expose herself to its light.  Not refreshed by the rain, exactly, since she never let it touch her face. But this was fine.  This was life.

She was a tightly closed bud with delicate yellow petals, and even shut into herself like this, she was a wonder to behold. Every day people walked by the garden on their way to – she didn’t know where – and sometimes they’d stop and look at all the flowers and plants.  Their eyes were always drawn to her, because she was tall and graceful and otherworldly.  Still, they could not truly see her, as she remained tightly shut, afraid to let in the light.

One day, a man stopped on the sidewalk to peruse the flowers, as people often did.  He noticed her like all the rest before him, for she was tall and graceful and otherworldly.  But he didn’t just look at her and walk away.  Curious and inspired, he knelt gracefully beside the garden, leaned his face over her, and began to whisper in a voice so low that only she could hear.

He told her she was lovely – a treasure, if truth be told.  He told her she was a gift too precious to stay so tightly shut.  He told her she was unique, and he had never known another like her.  He told her it was safe to look upon the sunlight – that even though it might seem scary to expose her true self, the risk would be worth it.

When he was satisfied with all he had said, the man stood up, brushed the dirt off his hands, and walked away.

She – the tightly closed bud with delicate yellow petals – stood tall and motionless, but the man and his remarks touched her deeply.  His words echoed in the raindrops that fell heavy and loud over the garden that night.

The next morning, she decided to face her fears, and she began to stretch out her long, lovely petals. For the first time she felt a bit of the sun’s warmth inside her and she knew she could never be shut again.

Over the course of the day the beautiful yellow flower opened herself completely to the bright sun above.  She allowed herself to be vulnerable.  She allowed herself to be brave.  In doing so, she revealed her nearly indescribable beauty to the world around her, and she made it a better place.  People now stopped to photograph the garden and several of them gasped at the ethereal, glittering light that seemed to radiate out from the tips of her petals.  She was happier than she had ever been.

She had bloomed.

A few more days went by and the once tightly closed bud, who was now a fully realized golden garden goddess, began to notice some changes in herself.  Her leaves were drooping a bit, her petals sagging and falling off.  She knew what was happening, but she hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly.  Just as she was pondering her newly wilting countenance, she felt the cool of a shadow over her.  It was the kind stranger who had awakened her days earlier, come to whisper to her once more.

Ever so gently he leaned down and again spoke in a voice that only she could perceive.

He told her she was lovely, but more than that, she was brave.  He told her that her courage had transformed the world.  He pointed out that ladybugs, bees, and butterflies had been attracted to her radiant aura, her honey-like scent.  He told her about the crowds of people who had come to see her.  He told her he had painted a most incredible portrait of her and he thanked her for her gift.

When he was satisfied with all he had said, the man stood up, brushed off his hands, and walked away again.

By nightfall, the beautiful flower had wilted completely to the ground.  She lay there, cool in the dirt, and pondered her long life shut away from the sun – and her short but glorious time under its rays.  It was worth it, she knew.

She had been closed off for so long, until a magnanimous stranger simultaneously enlivened and doomed her.  His near-silent, secret whispers had provoked her to the edge of her greatest fears.  He had introduced her to the sun.  Oh! – the hot, beaming, delicious sunlight – and how it playfully danced and glided over her magnificent petals.  That was her favorite part.

She prepared herself for the slow and peaceful fading back down into the earth that had born her, and she considered the irony that in destroying herself she had finally learned what it was to live.

Her life had not been the garden, or the breeze, or the people walking by or even in how long she stood there, afraid and tightly shut.  No, all of that was simply existing.  For the tightly closed bud with the beautiful yellow petals, the meaning of life – and the measure of it, too – was in the blossoming.