Unbeknownst to me, Glen's dad planted a bunch of tulip bulbs in one of our flower beds last fall. When I found out this spring that he had planted them, my heart smiled. I have loved tulips since I was a very small girl. I love them so much I lobbied my parents to name my little sister Tulip Ramona. (Ramona was one of my favorite cows in the barn at the time.)
The tulips are now blooming in the flower bed. As I admired them this morning, I was reminded of the words below. I wrote these words several years ago, at another time when I needed my hope recharged.

* * * * *

All my life I've been an animal person. Growing up on the farm, there were always plenty of chores to choose from; I always gravitated towards those involving animals. Unlike my sister, whose childhood snapshots captured her amidst the beautiful gardens she'd carefully tended, my special childhood moments revolved around our cattle or our pets.
Countless hours I spent attending to our calves' every need, looking forward to their arrival each spring. I sought out the gentle cows within the herd and befriended them by discovering exactly where they liked to be scratched or sneaking them a little extra grain. I shared the anxiety of the cows who frantically began searching for their missing calves after we had moved the little ones into the barn. I developed close relationships with all of the dogs my family had over the years. The unique personality of each animal intrigued and entertained me. At a young age I had come to find solace and serenity in the company of animals.
During the times of emotional upset that invariably came with growing up, I often threw on my boots and went to the barn. Just being near animals, caring for them, soothed me. Or I called for the dogs to sit along side me under a tree; they never failed to give me exactly what I needed: all their attention, a listening ear, and their unconditional, never-ending adoration. They never said words they thought would help me feel better, but only made me feel worse ... they just listened and loved.
And so, I've made determined efforts to always have an animal friend nearby. I once asked complete strangers busy gardening in their yard if I could pet their dog. I missed Penny, my family's dog, dearly and their dog reminded me of her. We ended up chatting in their yard for quite some time; I now count them among my closest friends.
When I rented my first real apartment in college, I had a fantail goldfish within a month; while she wasn't much for listening, Florence stayed with me for well over a year. After Glen and I bought our first house, I felt it wasn't complete without a warm, fuzzy pet. Bungee, the bunny, arrived that spring.
A funny thing happened this summer, though. After Bungee was killed, I eventually decided I didn't want another pet (I was too afraid of having to say goodbye again). Instead, I decided I'd spend my extra time in the garden. We have a front flower bed that was in serious need of help. Much has been written about the benefits of gardening and I know several avid gardeners who reap countless rewards; combined with a deep desire to see that flower bed transformed, I committed myself to that little patch of soil.
Surprisingly, the calming effects of working with the plot came quickly. Each weed I pulled (although I felt guilty at first and wanted to save the clover) became another stressor thrown into the compost. As my plants flourished and bloomed, a sense of pride grew, too. My pepper plants, generously started for me by dear friends, was a reminder of our friendship and soon bore gorgeous red, yellow, and orange sweets.
And, sure enough, tending my flower bed soon became a source of peace. Even though at times I saw my garden as another "to do," as soon as I reached the garden I was happy to be there and glad for the work. (I often faced early morning chores with the same trepidation, only to quickly replace it with the mind-soothing joy of physical labor.) I admit I never developed the sense of relationship with my plants that I always did with animals, but I've learned plants have their own, unique effect upon a person.
Then, this fall, another facet of gardening revealed itself. The garden plan I had composed during the summer called for more tulips in my flower bed. When the tulip bulbs arrived, I selected two varieties for my garden. The bulbs sat in my porch for a good two-and-a-half months; each week I added "plant tulip bulbs" to my list, each week a host of other tasks overruled. I finally got around to it last week. (Thankfully, the weather cooperated with my procrastination.)
Very carefully, I laid out my bulbs, arranging the colors. I measured out six inches between and dug four inches down. After the bulbs were planted, I watered them well, and covered my flower bed with mulch. I did everything the way I should. And after I finished, the symbolism of my act occurred to me. Regardless of the care poured into my preparations, I cannot guarantee those tulips will grace my flower bed with their beauty come spring. I cannot do any more to protect them from winter's chilly fingers or prepare them for what lies ahead. I cannot be sure of anything. I can only hope.
And wait. The wait is not the customary few days it takes for most seeds to sprout. I will wait and hope all winter for the glory of spring to bring life to my tulips. And so it is with every seed we plant. Every seed is planted as an outpouring of hope. Hope for the spring. Hope for the harvest. Hope.