Tulip Bulbs

Last fall I planted eighty tulip bulbs and hoped that ten would bloom. Winter in almost nearing her end and I counted fifteen tender heads already peeking through the ground.

The slanting strips of gorgeous rain has been pouring all day and I asked for five whole minutes of quiet just so that puppy could take his walk. We got four and in the fifth we came back drenched but with our job done.

The house smells of the lilies that he bought and the dishes that he forgot in the sink – it was his turn. The girls are excited about their lives and future and I will not break the news; heartaches happen and losses will have to be borne.

Today my mother turned down my phone call, she was too busy playing with her grandchild and I laughed at her willfulness hoping to resemble her someday. Today I heard from all of my old friends, apparently, time and distance has not fully kept us apart.

There are reminders all over and everyday of the arbitrariness of the rules that bring but temporary order into our chaotic and out of control lives. I too have pretended long enough to assume responsibility and bear my consequences without excuse.

Yet when I plant eighty tulip bulbs and ask for ten, I feel extraordinarily blessed to count fifteen shoots making their way through the ground.


10000-volt Fence

Sitting within the 10,000-volt electric fence that surrounded my life, I was much too scared to venture anywhere close to it, let alone harbor the thought of ever crossing it! Much of my life happened within the perimeter of safety even when I knew that my rich life was waiting outside. 

Tempted to take up art seriously much later in life, I eagerly created a portfolio and applied to the closest fine art school that I could find. I was half hoping for rejection, so that the tedious detail of child-care, commute, and homework did not have to be addressed.

My life was in for a major turnaround when I got accepted. I was both thrilled and extremely nervous; it was time for me to cross my 10,000-volt electric fence.

My mind did not help me in the least: my imagination ran wild; I was going to miss the train and be late on the very first day. I would accidently fall upon the tracks and be run-over, or worse, be stuck in between the doors of the train and be bludgeoned against the tunnel walls.  And my favorite - I would get off at the wrong station where junkies and petty criminals would rob and murder me.

To this day, I don’t know which God took my hand and walked with me!

When I finally made it to school uneventfully, I was in for more surprises. The very first class I took was Cast drawing. Our drawings were to be based off of casts of actual historical sculptures such as the David by Michelangelo, Nike of Samothrace of the Hellenistic Greek period, Laocoon from the Roman period and such other types, to be drawn to scale.

All of my fellow students were boys and girls between the ages of 18 and 20, many of who had already taken several drawing classes. So, as the oldest and least-skilled person, I even more nervously drew my child like drawing, never having taken serious drawing classes before. My instructor quizzed me on my skill set and left me standing with sweat tricking down my back.

The following week, looking extremely surprised he said, “I didn’t think you would show up!”

Here was a man who did not know me in the least. Who had no idea of the depth of my passion, my motivation, my life, the hardships of being a student and a mother of two elementary school age children not to mention the trauma of someone who had survived a major train related incident on her way to school.

Sometimes even as you are walking towards the 10,000-volt fence, people around you get nervous. The thing in all of this is to remember to be true to yourself even when you look crazy!

So, with his encouraging words in mind, I ran towards the fence with all my might and simply crossed it. I was unharmed – without a scratch. It turned out that like my train, my 10,000-volt fence, was also powered only by my imagination.

Half way through my very first semester, I drew the Nike of Samothrace to scale. My previously doubtful instructor after having measured and re-measured my drawing several times, put his hand out and said, “congratulations!”

Since then the idea is to cross as many 10,000-volt fences as I possibly can!


Architects of Meaning

It was fairly simple and extremely straightforward. The pieces were sorted, the instruction precise and the afternoon time perfect for such activity. Pretty soon we had constructed a playground with her very first set of Legos. Obviously, she was thrilled, my child who was at the time barely five years old but I was fascinated too. 

It soon evolved as a pressing hobby and over time we embarked on more complicated projects and we have constructed a fairly decent Lego city. Considering that neither of us have any architectural skills whatsoever, I am pleased with our effort.

Every such undertaking that has resulted in a successful outcome has brought along a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of worthiness and an attribution of time well spent. But like all accomplishments large and small the elation is fleeting and seldom lasting in effect. 

Curiously, I wish to draw a parallel to this chosen hobby and my life. 

Needless to say unlike the set patterns of Lego my own life has assumed twists and turns that I never anticipated. Lacking the standards of an instructional manual, color-coded pieces and rough sketches my life seems to have no set purpose. Therefore I wonder if we are indeed architects of our existence on any level at all?

My grandmother would most certainly disapprove of such wonderings. In her mind life’s purpose was nothing like sketches made out of soft charcoal that can be erased, smudged or introduced to new directions. Destiny was like the preconceived pieces of Lego that have to be laid out with precise execution to produce a set outcome.

But as a true moderate I wish to stick to my middle path. While I concur with my grandmother’s assumption, I wish to defy the powerlessness that comes with it. While I have experienced life’s stubbornness I have also witnessed her graceful amiability to my dreams and wishes. Even as she has sometimes dealt me a rough hand life has empowered me to make meaning of my sorrows. 

In the grand scheme, I would like to think of us as architects. The size of the board may be established, the pieces already distributed, the colors randomly allocated and a hidden instruction manual may be directing us constantly. Yet we can, if we are brave enough, make meaning of it all that is our very own. 

Apparently God helps those who help themselves and he goes out of his way to bless those who help themselves and others!