A tulip garden blessing for mothers on their special day

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 9, 2012

Fred Monk’s images from last year’s Skagit Valley Tulip Festival hint at role of mothers in shaping the natural beauty of the child into a glorious garden. Photos by Fred Monk

One flower holds a warm place in the hearts of many of us as we emerge from winter into spring’s colourful glow: tulips.

With wise planning and lots of tender care, these natural cups of joy attain their special splendour in world-class gardens that never cease to inspire photographers.

In my case, the very thought of tulips also inspired a special blessing for this Mother’s Day.

Several readers have drawn my attention recently to tulip festivals in such places as Japan, Australia, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and of course, the Netherlands. The Canadian Tulip Festival, billed as the largest such event in the world, is currently under way in Ottawa.

But it was Cochrane photo-essayist Jack Blair who got me thinking the other day about one celebration, in particular, that is the backdrop for this week’s column: the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is an April-long northwest Washington State event that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

Jack had dropped in on this year’s festival and sent me a photo he took at La Conner, Wash., that I’m planning on running next week.

This week I’m featuring two photos of the Skagit Valley event that were taken a year ago by Fred Monk, former pastor of Cochrane’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

The photographer-priest’s images speak to me of two fundamental qualities of motherhood: nature and nurture.

The first image is that of a single, stunningly beautiful yellow tulip. By nature – that is, by its distinctive genetic makeup as it grew from a bulb – it has features that are as breathtaking as a newborn babe’s. In a certain sense, the “mother” – that is, the gardener in whose earthen “womb” the bulb took root – gave “birth” to this breathtaking blossom.

The second image is that of a vibrant, complex garden of tulips. Whereas the single tulip is blessed with qualities independent of the gardener’s designs, the garden has its own form and character precisely because of the gardener’s foresight and grooming.

That’s where the nurturing comes in. The gardener took what was there by nature and nurtured it into its positive place in the larger scheme of life.

The individual tulip was not just some solitary offspring lost in a meaningless universe. No. Its life – protected, nourished and mentored as it was by Mother Gardener – had meaning and purpose through taking its place in the family and community of other tulips.

Sort of like Mom’s relationship to each of us as blossoms in life’s gardens, eh?

So, allow me to propose the following Mother’s Day blessing, as we tiptoe through the tulips of our memories of our mothers’ bringing us into the world and helping us fit comfortably within that world:

May the Lord bless you with the assurance of our love and gratitude for all that you have done to make us what we are. May our words and actions honour you, and may our recognition of your handiwork in our part of life’s garden never cease to fill us with wonder and delight.

As a parting note, fathers shouldn’t feel left out. Your special day is just over a month away.


© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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