I saw tulips this morning.
Traffic often gets a little backed up on the road that connects with the freeway onramp so I was juggling my gas and brake pedal. I edged towards the freeway when out of the corner of my eye I saw them. Or perhaps they saw me. It was a brick apartment complex, a winding building with lots of angles and nooks. Next to a stairway there was a little group of tulips, blushing pink and orange at their entrance into the world. And I don’t know, we had a moment. I peered out of my window and admired them and it felt like a little gift, just for me. The tulips were surrounded by brick and concrete and metal and dirt and they looked both out of place and yet exactly where they should be – a little beacon of spring. Of hope.
There’s something about this season that turns me into an emotional mess of a schmuck. I don’t mean to belabor winter again and again, but it’s (still) rough on me. This winter was my best in Des Moines, by far. I readied myself with vitamin D and a sun lamp and a yoga class and an extra dose of gumption. I didn’t sink as deeply this year. I didn’t avoid people as often. I didn’t constantly question myself and why I do what I do. I didn’t think about how I wouldn’t be missed by very many if I was gone.
And yet, winter still seeps in-between the cracks and begins leaking into the tunnels in my brain. It takes the edge off my joy. Knocks little holes in my happiness. Thins out my experiences and makes it all seem a bit more fragile. My roller coaster this winter had more rises than falls, thank God. The falls didn’t plummet as quickly or as deeply as in the past, but the rises were also gentler. With gentler rises, you forget the thrill of a big upswing.
Last spring and summer, I was hyper-aware of how happy I felt. I wasn’t happy all the time, of course, but it was a huge shift in my brain after winter. I kept repeating over and over in my mind, remember this. Remember how happy you feel right now. Hold onto this when your happiness is undermined again.
And as it goes, the sun began slipping in later and leaving earlier. The temperatures plummeted and the city stilled as everyone withdrew inside. Life began feeling a little flat, a little gray. I was able to recognize the gray quicker than previous years, and then recall my summer chant. Remember this. Remember this immense joy. Life can be bright and vibrant. I didn’t recall specific moments when I felt the gray spreading, just feelings tied to moments. Moments that were probably sitting by a campfire with friends, walking by the lake as the sun shone down, riding bicycles in the wind. Memories with light leaks in the frame and sun flares at the edges. Hazy lazy summer days, a little sticky and mostly sweet.
These snippets of joy were so important. They propelled me through the winter. I wasn’t as hard on myself when I felt a little down, a little off. I was freed to let winter be winter with the promise of new life, new joy. This morning, these tulips seemed to encapsulate all I’ve been holding onto. Beauty bursting out of the ground that just a month ago had been frozen beneath ice and muck.
Because I’m a cheesy romantic, I stopped by on the way home from work to take a picture. Remember this. Remember.
“…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”