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The Snow Crocus: A fable
How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being; otherwise, we all remain too frightened.
–Hafiz, It Felt Love
In this season of turmoil and transformation, I've been learning about—and from—crocuses.
The flowers of the snow crocus focus the energy of the sunlight, so much so that the air at the heart of a crocus blossom can be as much as ten degrees warmer than the surroundings. Newly emerged insects warm themselves in crocus blossoms. They are a fierce and breathtaking harbinger of the coming spring.
On a path I often travel, this week there are beautiful new crocuses. They've been with me in my prayer time, and I think they've been telling me a story. I feel led to share that story with you:
It was quiet and dark below ground. Nothing changed; nothing stirred. Nothing grew. It felt safe. For all anyone remembered, it had always been this way.
No one risked; no one failed. No one danced or sang; no one was vulnerable. And so, no one learned or laughed. And no one was able to truly love.
But deep within her being, one young bulb yearned for the light. She told the story to all who would listen. She felt called to grow. The call felt new and very old at the same time—as if somehow she'd heard the story before. As if it was, in some inexplicable way, the story of her people.
Within and around her, she recognized the voices that would speak against what she felt was true: "Forget it!" "Let us stay asleep."
She knew the voices of those who were afraid, who would accuse her of talking nonsense, of trying to change something fundamental about who they understood themselves to be. She knew the voices that would try to silence her so that they could remain comfortable.
"That sounds dangerous!" a concerned neighbor worried. "Best stay where you are. You could endanger all of us!"
"We tried that once," an elder counseled. "Some of us pushed in that direction, using precious energy, and as they grew it got colder and colder, and the soil got harder and harder. But they kept going, trusting that story you keep telling. When they finally broke out of the soil, do you know what they found? Nothing but freezing and death. And when they had wasted all of their energy, they were gone. Don't make the same mistake. That story can't be trusted."
"So what if you're right?" asked one of the leaders. "What if you do find something better, something more alive? Have you considered what that would do to us? It would be too painful to lose you. We'd be left behind. What if others decided to leave, too? Don't you see this story risks dividing our community?"
The young bulb knew she was being invited to a life she'd known only in her dreams—but those dreams felt fragile. She didn't know what had happened to those who had tried to grow before, and she didn't know if she'd survive. She was heartsick that she might hurt others who couldn't hear the story in her heart. And to be honest, she was terrified.
But deep within her, she knew what she had to do.
She risked. She gave everything she had, using the energy she'd discovered deep within her to grow. At first she thought she might catch fire from the effort. She thought of turning back. But she let go of all she'd known. With push after push, another part of her was consumed, dying only to be transformed into a new shape, a fresh expression of her true substance. Her attention turned from what she was leaving behind to what she was yearning for, and she grew clearer, stronger. There was more and more joy. And then, seemingly all at once, she broke through the numbness.
And so she emerged to a world of miracle: of sun-drenched morning and moon-dappled night, of rain and dew, of sky and stars and blessing wind. Of a whole world waking up; fragile newborn creatures taking refuge in the warmth reflected from her glistening flowers. Of a life beyond imagining for those who remained buried. She found what she came into the world to do, who she came into the world to be: The snow crocus—first flower of spring.
And she discovered she wasn't alone after all. She had siblings everywhere, all of them willing to leave safety behind for the risky faith of springtime.
Now, no one on the surface remembers the crocus bulbs that weren't willing to blossom—except those who have made the pilgrimage toward the light. Deep within, they remember those who have yet to blossom. And so they pray—and live–so that those still buried might "feel the encouragement of light against [their] being."
The invitation is always waiting, just beneath the surface. And this time of year, if we pay careful attention, we can see them arriving: some who thought they might sleep forever now rising into miracle, living the story for which they were made.
I hear spring is on its way.