the flower

There once was a flower, of rare, yet quite ordinary beauty, who blossomed along a footpath through the woods. Her opalescent coloring, unlike any ever seen by human eyes, had an iridescent quality, as if she were somehow made up of the very light that she both consumed and reflected (which, of course, she was). Her petals, delicate and fragile, nearly transparent, appeared as if, at the slightest touch, they would surely fall away. No, more accurately perhaps, it appeared as if the flower would simply vanish, passing through the fingers of one who dared to touch her, as if she were a hologram perhaps, mere illusion. And yet, indeed, she was very real and blossoming.

 

The natives of this woodland passed her by, daily on their walk to the water, where they bathed each evening, and which they collected each morning into barrels for their daily need. Yet they never noticed her. It came to pass, however that outsiders to the village, were drawn into the forest by her fragrance. They came into the woodland seeking her, attracted by, and wanting to come closer to, the source of the heady scent. Imagining how outstanding she must be, they came, longing just to catch a glimpse of her.

 

Immediately, they asked the villagers about the exquisite scent that had led them to this place, but the natives knew nothing of the flower because they did not smell her. Disappointed, yet still certain that something quite valuable was there, the newcomers decided to stay, befriending the natives and making their homes within the village, where they, at least, could be nearer to the elusive flower’s scent. Soon, however, the fragrance faded also for the settlers. Thinking that the flower must have died, they implored the natives to lead them deeper into the forest, in search of the rare species.

 

For years they searched the forest, each day passing through the meadow, where she bloomed within their own (now much larger) village, on their way to the water, which they now collected into canteens for their daily explorations, and upon which they now would often travel. To them the forest meadow was quite mundane, for certain an unfitting and unlikely a place to find one of the extraordinary beauty hinted at by the exquisite fragrance. Indeed, blossom though she did, they would pass right through her delicate transparency, unknowing.

 

One morning, however, a young girl entered the wood, a girl of rare, yet quite ordinary beauty. Her eyes, the color of opals, caught the morning light that they reflected. To the villagers, however, it appeared that she had brought it, for the forest suddenly was bathed in iridescent sunlight as she rose from the water (where they had come, as always, to begin their day). So brilliant was her entrance that the people instantly recognized her and followed her, as to the flower field she walked straightway. Upon entering the mundane meadow, a wide swath of shimmering radiance, amethyst and azure, spread across the forest field as all the flowers glowed, and a fragrance sweet and strong imbued the air.

 

The people cried “It is She, the flower we have sought!” rushing to encircle her. The girl saw the people coming, a radiant wave of color and of light, to join the meadow in the dance, she thought. She inhaled their heady fragrance as she turned, with open arms, to welcome them.

 

But the people had fallen to their knees, forming a kind of wall around the girl, and awestruck, they could not understand her simple gesture. Very shortly they realized that they could not remain in one place watching her for long, and so they quickly organized to build a fence, in order to delineate and set apart the meadow. They wanted both to protect and surround the girl, so that they always could revisit her, now that they at last had found their flower. At once, some of them began to gather stones to designate the enclosure, while others stood guard to be certain she would not escape their grasp again. So intent were they upon their goal that they never noticed her invitation to come with her inside. Instead, they labored long and hard until they fell asleep in weariness and pain, aching of exhaustion.

 

As they slept, the girl began to weep, for she realized that they could not see! Longing to awaken and include them, she approached nearer to their boundary line. Her tears became a mirror for the people as she approached the outside limits of their confine, and yet still, even as the sleep-walking people gazed into their own reflection in her eyes, they thought that it was she alone who glimmered in the darkness like a dream.

 

And so she vanished, slipping easily through their rigid walls, as dandelion seeds through grasping fingers. Before the people’s very eyes, the meadow returned once again to the mundane, save to the eyes of the girl, who gazing over her shoulder saw colors unlike any ever seen by human eyes, delicate and fragile, yet luminous in their dance.

 

The village people maintain the stone enclosure to this day, to indicate the spot that they once found her, hoping that she will return again. And yet she sits so close, on the hill just outside the village, smiling and weeping, watching the light below move in fantastic patterns, as waves of wind across the meadow blow and the flowers join the dance, wondering when the people will at last see, and welcome her, inside their walls again.

vicki kensinger 9/04

  

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