We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.
As a college freshman, desperate to loosen the choke of city’s fingers around my throat, I would walk carefully beside the sidewalk. With eyes focused on the ground, I’d see only grass, pretend I was home on our 30-acre prairie farm. Three years later, a senior at Northwestern College, I have learned to see the beauty of a Minneapolis skyline trading places with the stars. I still leave the paths, though no longer for fear.
My high heels clip the sidewalk and stick in cracks as I walk to my Corolla, classes over at three in the afternoon. The tulips are like the breathless aurora this April, and driving onto campus this morning, I most respected the white-tipped scarlet ones—“beauty is the secret sound of the deepest thereness of things.”
A hill rises to my left, Riley Hall seated on top, radiating spring heat thick from its roof like a dry riverbed. The sun drenches, dripping golden-hour light down redbrick walls into a watercolor of tulip rivers. Warm wind brushes aside my bangs and breathes gently on my forehead. I find myself with shoes deep in grassy surf, peasant skirt twisting around my knees, climbing up the hill to the flowered stream, searching for tulips already broken onto the lawn; I will not pick any. Three torn crimson petals and a damaged blossom offer themselves, and I cup them in my fingers to bring back with me—somewhere. I balance on hill’s crest.
Uplifted. Below me on concrete path, a football player who appears to have his summer home in the weight room. He watches, tight-lipped; I feel petal silk on my fingertips and know he sees only a torn-up tulip, though it isn’t his fault my world is lit by a different sun—Oscar Wilde said, “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight.” For a moment, I feel childish and wonder if someday I’ll know someone who treasures shattered flowers. The boy looks away; perhaps he thinks staring is rude. I stare at the rubies in my hands.
In the car, I place wilted tulip and three petals on my dashboard, and when I reach the freeway and 73 miles per hour, I roll fully open every window so my hair tangles and lips dry out and I can listen to silence. The fiery petals flicker and twirl under the wind; after minutes of straining, one slips out the window, a blink, or a breath.
I watch it leave and wonder if a little girl will find it on her doorstep and stare. She will see the dawn, Wilde says, before the rest of the world.