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The tulips are blooming

They are a deep red burgundy color.

They have burst into sight almost overnight. First one or two, then five or six. It is as if you blink your eyes and there they are.

Our tulips are blooming and with them come the promise of spring.

They started popping up a couple of weeks ago. Despite the harsh and lingering winter of 2009-10, they poked up through the ground stubbornly refusing to give in to the historic cold.

Tulips are now my mark of spring. Mary Lou and I tried planting them early in our marriage, to no avail. It was too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry. We put them in the refrigerator or in the garage, seeking to duplicate the conditions of Holland. It didn’t matter.

The closest we ever got to the showcase of color that tulips can produce was on the cover of the mail order catalogs that taunted us by arriving in our mailbox in the dead of winter.

Elizabeth then married one of the Faulk twins that own Lakewood Landscape Group. Their signature plant as shown on their stationary, invoices and vehicles is the tulip. Grant and Kyle transformed the lawns and beds of our home and our office with thousands of tulips.

The bulbs hide in beds of petunias and other plants whose names I don’t know. As I admire plants that can show color in the dead of winter, I steadily seek the day that the tulip stalks break thought the surface.

Each year we wait with anticipation to see which bed will break into color first. They don’t tell us what color is planted where. They give no hint of what is going on when one bed has tall stalks breaking forth while others are just short stubs of the promise of color yet to come. Instead, we are left to anticipate what nature will provide.

The tulips are finally here and with them the certainty that this long, hard winter is past. We will long remember the 14 straight days below freezing, the rainy cold mornings, and the first significant snow in a generation.

We will remember the historically high electrical bills and the high cost of gas to heat our homes. I will remember the mornings so cold that our loyal customers didn’t even want a biscuit. I will remember the chill so great that Harry, my great dog and friend, wanted to seek cover in the kitchen rather than walk through the neighborhood.

Our cherry trees are blossoming with a brilliant pink. The Japanese magnolias are blooming all over town. But it is the tulips that tell me that spring with all its splendor is finally here. With these blooms come the 60 degree afternoons and the crisp, clear mornings.

“If spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change.” These are the words of the great American poet, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.

Spring is a gift we receive each year. By virtue of living in Southwest Georgia where there are actually four seasons, we get this gift over and over. With the occasional occurrence of a severe winter such as the one we just had, spring has an even more spectacular appearance, lifting our spirits with the expectation of better times.

I will walk in our lawn steadily over the next few weeks. I will enjoy the variety of colors as the tulips open up to their full display. Is there any spectacle that we can enjoy as much as nature providing us with its beautiful spring displays?

Tulips bring me joy not because they are one of the most beautiful things that occur in the spring. They bring me joy because I see the beauty that my son-in-law provides to those like me that don’t have the talent to guide nature to its full potential. It can be a green thumb, education or blind luck.

Whatever the reason, Grant and his brother, Kyle, provide me with the visible evidence that spring is upon us. Through their help, I get to experience the majesty of nature and the subtle ways it can touch us. They help open my heart and mind to the simple beauty of the world around me and in doing so help make my life a bit easier and peaceful.

It doesn’t have to be a tulip that awakens your heart to spring. Perhaps it is the early blooming of a pecan tree, or the greening of weeds in your lawn. Perhaps it is just the smell of our vast agricultural fields being prepared for planting. Maybe it is the earlier sunrise, or later sunset.

Christina Rossetti once said that “spring is when life’s alive in everything.” Look around you. Everything you see and sometimes take for granted is coming alive. Take a deep breath. Seek your own tulips. Enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. If you take the time to enjoy this gift you will better understand what Bern Williams meant when he said “the day the Lord created hope was probably the same day He created spring.”