“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin
The bodacious orange-red hibiscus flower opened its luscious petals, unfurling gracefully, teased wide by the unbridled adoration of a white-hot summer sun. The orb’s rays boldly caressed the bloom, licking its puckered edges, drawing the golden pistil in its center to rapt, proud attention, a siren song salute to daring daylight.
Come the dim, diluted dusk, the flower pulled its tuckered, wrinkled petals tightly, tenderly, around its now spent and drooping pistil. With one, last, lingering nod to a sinking sun, the hibiscus shrunk silently into itself. By morning, when the new light of dawn peeked shyly over the horizon, the bloom had fallen. The new day found a brown, shriveled ghost scattered among the rocks, a wretched remnant of a beauty once so alive it danced with the unbearable lightness of being.
The slender, fragile green tendril that had held the now fallen bloom aloft to the sun moved slowly in the breeze, lighter, mourning its lost creation. But serrated leaves also sheltered the next bud, sheathed in a tight swaddling blanket of green husk. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe soon, the next bud would be big enough, strong enough to boldly entertain the scorching sun, its auspicious admirer, to dance one day, just one day in the freedom of becoming.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” Anais Nin wrote. The compelling words were stenciled on fake parchment paper adjacent to an oriental-looking flower. I found the budget print of priceless wisdom in a cluttered dime store, when I was a naïve young woman. I bought the print and encased it in a cheap, wooden frame. The simple quote stirred me, poked me, mocked me, inspired me, touched me in ways hard to fathom, much less describe.
The print traveled with me to each college dorm room, to my first humble dwelling as a single woman, to my even humbler first apartment as a new wife, to my spacious condo as a joyful new mother, to my home in the mountains of West Virginia as a doctoral student…it graced thirteen walls before I lost track of it. Were the words no longer relevant? Had I lost hope that I would blossom? I don’t know.
But if I could lift that print from the rubble, rescue it from the trash heap, reclaim it for myself, I would. I’d tenderly wipe away the detritus of my neglect. I’d ensconce it in the finest, polished red mahogany frame. I’d hang it without fanfare, but with exquisite reverence, on the wall painted fresh cream, above my computer. No one else would know what it meant to me. But I would know. I had taken the risk. I had blossomed. And the sight was a dazzling beauty to behold.
A mournful, even maudlin lyric sings, “hold onto life with both hands until the holding starts to kill you.” There are days, now and then, when I see Lilliputian glimpses of a time coming when the physical pain of living will outweigh the parting pain of dying. Like the hibiscus, I’ll pull in my precious petals around the spent essence of self and drop gracefully into the nocturnal abyss. In the morning, they’ll find my husk but search in vain for my beauty. I will have blossomed into what I came to be.