Do you know what an amaryllis is?
I'm sure I'd heard the word before, had rolled it around my tongue even, because it's an especially good word, but I had no idea what it meant. Sometimes, even now, I forget it, and in the grasping sputter out Chrysalis? Eucharist? It is not a word that comes naturally to me. It does not sit on the tip of my tongue.
A client sent me an amaryllis bulb for Christmas, and I really had no idea what to do with such a thing. The bulb itself was a cross between a ginger root, a potato and an artichoke, smelling of dank and dirt. The box it came in was much prettier. Other than careful watering instructions, the pamphlet included basically said to pop it in a pot and watch it grow. I hate to spoil the ending, but honestly, that's what happened.
A few days after the potting, it started to sprout a thick, green stalk. From then on, I would come home to find that it had grown another inch. The thing grew so fast, I think it scared the cat. My cousins came over and made dirty penis jokes, because it stood up straight and tall and was tapered at the top. My mother and my aunt smirked to each other but refused to comment. In three weeks, it has grown twenty-four inches and first one, and suddenly, four heads have sprouted. While the first bud was developing, there was a lot of Georgia O'Keefe happening, with the gentle unfurling of red petals, velvety crimson and ladylike curve. I joked about the penis turning into a vagina, and my mother uncharacteristically retorted, "On her period."
All four flowers are in various stages of bloom right now, with the original in full splendour and the others just starting to show off filament and anther. It is, very plainly, one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
I have become completely entranced with this plant. It has given me contentment and hope as I leave for work in the morning, and fulfils its promise every night when I come home, because it is stronger and taller and more dazzling than it was the last time I saw it. The very act of marvelling over it has inexplicably become some of the best moments of each day for me. I've watched its progress, first with a vague interest, and now with an almost obsessive need to see the growth happening. It does not make me laugh, it does not make the muscles in my shoulders unclench, it cannot be poured into a glass and savoured for an hour. It just stands on it's own and is.
The pamphlet stated that once the flowers start to wither - an almost impossible notion to consider - the stalk needs to be mercilessly chopped so that the process can begin again. There is hope there, I suppose.
There are a great many things of beauty in this world, though not many that will make me stop and stare. A particularly hopeful Rothko will do it, as will the works of the Monsieurs Louboutin and Choo. A Concord vine at full fruit will make me stop and inhale, and the scent of espresso brewing in the morning is incredibly delicious to me. A crumbled bit of Gorgonzola on my tongue will bring tears of joy to my eyes. And now this, this new discovery, this brand new beauty.
There is hope, certainly, but the memory of the first growth and the first bloom, the whole progression of discovery, stands quite alone. There is hope, but also, there is reason to be grateful.
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