Every spring, I welcome the sight of the tulip stalks pushing through the newly thawing soil. They are a sign that warmer temperatures are returning, willing to stick their metaphorical necks out as the days start to lengthen. But because they are so early to the eventually raucous party that is springtime, they run a risk. Temperatures that have just started to rise can also drop. Spring can bring warmth, but it can also bring frost.
Last Saturday, we saw temperatures in the 80s here in Chicago, and the tulips were wide open, receiving the sun’s warming rays. But by Monday morning, they had fallen to near freezing. What happened to our adventurous tulips? Well, they were prepared. Tulips have evolved to emerge in the early spring, so those who couldn’t tolerate temperatures dipping below freezing didn’t survive and pass on their genes. Those that prosper now can survive this temperature variation. Of course, they cannot endure a prolonged deep freeze. But when the sun goes down and temperatures dip, the tulips that were open close down to protect themselves.
As I felt the chill on my own skin earlier this week, I couldn’t help but notice the tulips and connect them to some of my own experiences. I couldn’t help but be reminded of how I want to show up in the face of prosperity and adversity. When the sun shines – literally and metaphorically – I want to open up, show out, prosper, grow. I want to enjoy the warmth of the sun on my face. I want to drink it all in. When the cold returns, I need to close down, not turning off my color but still attending to my own needs, considering my own protection. It is this rhythm of growing and shrinking, ebbing and flowing, that allows us to thrive. In some ways, this rhythm is the very definition of thriving.
Flourishing is not the single act of showing up on our best day. It is the willingness to move back and forth, to both care for ourselves when needed and express ourselves as we are able. It is enjoyment and self-protection. It is this rhythm of our lives that constitutes the flourishing.
I can’t assess or understand the inner life of tulips, such as it is. I don’t know how or if they support and care for one another. But I do know that we need to live this kind of flourishing within our communities. We need to make space for those who are feeling the sun. We need to care for those who are moving through periods of cold. And when many of us are experiencing the cold together, we need to huddle close for warmth so then when the sun shines again, we can all enjoy it together.
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