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Flower in Spring

 


Flower in Spring

- Manu Bhattathiri (India) 

No one had ever asked the plant what she had done to bring forth the most beautiful flower that spring. True, if the little bird with the blue feathers had asked, or the bees or even the fleshy grass by her roots, she would have no answer. What beautiful thoughts in her soul, buried and allowed to ripen in the sun of the spring, what wispy dream dipped in moonlight for long hours would finally show up as a little bud—red and young yellow—by her side at a happy moment? She did not know. She did not think anyone in the universe knew. But when she first noticed her bud, exuberant and smiling already, breaking out of the green at her stalk, she was overjoyed.

In the following days the plant was so happy that she giggled fragrance into the breeze. When the fragrance brought the bees to her she wouldn’t let them too near: “Not just yet. He is still too young. Wait till he grows into the most beautiful flower of the spring!”

Disturbed, the old weed that grew near her cleared his throat and told her, “Don’t be too happy, little plant. Happiness is almost always balanced by just that much sorrow. That is how the gods have planned it.”

Grumpy old weed, thought the plant. Philosophizes when it’s time to celebrate and jokes when it’s time to be sober.

Like the happy plant that she was, she celebrated the season, watching closely as her bud blossomed. First he came out more from his green womb, showing more of his red and yellow to the sun. Then he let out a scent so captivating, the little bird brought his kin and they all perched on a nearby branch and sang endlessly. Even in the nights the plant seldom slept, watching her sleeping bud that was a young flower now, as he turned different colours over when the clouds broke moonlight into patterns on the land. On bright afternoons the bees now eagerly came over and flew around the flower, falling in love with each other under the intoxication of his new fragrance.

“It isn’t good, this much happiness,” the grumpy weed warned. “There will be a backlash, so celebrate with moderation.”

Everyone said it was the curse of the old weed when it happened. Sure enough, the weed only stood there tired and indifferent that evening, as an old lady with a basket pranced over and said: “Ah, what a beautiful flower! Nature’s ornament! Just what I need to bring happiness into my room.” In a snip the flower was off his mother and in the old lady’s basket. The bees could only buzz away in sympathy and disappointment. The blue-feathered bird flew into the setting sun, unable to face the little plant as she oozed the milk of her veins from the cut where the flower had been part of her.

For long days and nights the plant mourned and mourned, standing stiff in the breeze as though her stem had hardened like that of an old shrub. In place of her fragrance she now gave the air the smell of her sorrow, like dry pain, so that the bees kept away. They did come once to report to the plant—looking at each other sorrowfully—that they had in fact seen the young flower in a home, happy but for the memories of his mother, giving of his glow to the world from a proud little vase into which the old woman poured fresh water every day. “It is only that he is in a different part of the universe, little plant. He lives, and is happy.”

But their story only seemed to make the plant more woeful. She dripped more sap off the wound that they thought had healed.

“This is how more beauty is born,” the weed said to no one in particular. “The woe that is churning in her heart; these are the thoughts that go between the dark clouds up there before they throw out the rainbow.”

“Shhh, cranky old weed,” said the bird that had come back at last to check on his friend. “Let the little plant live out her agony in her way. You do not know the depths of her anguish. For you have none to call your own.”

While spring continued to bloom all around, the little plant still spilt sap thinking of the flower’s young days as a bud, him smiling at the grass below in the mornings, and the way the bees had found love through his scent. The dragonflies whispered and the crickets in the nights cackled out their advice to the little plant to smile again, for she would wither and fall if she was sorrowful for this many nights and days.

A ladybird told the plant about tales of loss and bereavement and how the universe yet moved on. But no one could be sure the plant was even listening. She only stood stiff like she was awaiting her moment of death. The ladybird said it was in the course of things to lose the ones you love, but life still continued. She showed the plant the clouds up above that drifted free in the wind no matter what occurred down on the earth. “That’s how the spirit ought to be,” she said. “It can linger and ponder and look down for a bit, but it must then drift on with the wind.”

After the ladybird hopped away, still calling back her advices, the little plant did cheer up a little. She looked up at the clouds and the bird told his friend that it was indeed the first time in many days that she was at least looking up. Then the weed, whom they all called grumpy and cranky, said something kind at last: “No sorrow can last forever, little plant. The darkest hours must always give way to brightness and joy. That, too, is how the gods have planned it.”

Such was the power of his blessing that an almost inexpressible joy soon graced the plant. On her side, away from the now browned wound the old woman had given her, was born a fresh bud! The plant cried to see the new bud on one of those mornings. She cried like her heart would break, and then they saw that she cried in joy that is born of sorrow. “It’s the soul of my first flower,” she cried. “He is reborn in her, this little bud. Look, she has the same smile, she has his smile!”

“Yes, it is him alright,” the old weed muttered after glancing over like an expert midwife. “So much has the little plant lived and died in the memory of her first flower, he has come back to her in a new life.”

The blossoming of the new bud was even more of a ceremony than that of the first. The whole of the spring season seemed to dance around her infancy. She soon peeped out of her green world and caught her first dewdrop at her bright red tip. She called out to the dragonflies to hover near her and sang back at the bird and his friends. As she blossomed into a flower, bright, bright red and younger yellow, she made the bees go mad with love, sending out to them her bewitching new scents each afternoon.

One evening as the young flower was nodding off into satisfied slumber, the old weed observed: “How much she reminds me of the way your first flower slept! She has the same droop of her petals ...”

“No, old weed,” corrected the little plant, looking fondly at the young flower’s sleepy droop. “She is bigger and prouder than he was.”

The crickets quietened to listen. Even the little blue-feathered friend lay awake as he took in her words.

“She is a flower unlike any other,” continued the little plant. “None has ever borne a bud so beautiful. Her red is redder than anything the bees have seen; they told me so just yesterday. Her yellow looks up at the sun and gives him fight! And lying I’m not, you can discern for yourself her fragrance. It’s sweeter than anything you might have experienced in your long, long life, won’t you agree?”