They are like a lovely little clique, these early spring flowers that suddenly appeared in my garden bed about a week ago. I confess to not even knowing their name (hello strangers!) but can only fumble around for a general designation. In the Crocus family? Part of the Amarylis clan? We bought our house last May and moved in June thereby missing a veritable festival of spring growth, of creepers starting their slow sprawl over dirt, of shrubs beginning to blush with color, and of dainty, yet stubborn, bulbs like these, stretching their whisper fragile petals to the sun. These purple shoots make me happy. They add a splash of color in an otherwise washed out, still grey New England thaw. And they make me worried. They are so wee, so tentative against still-dormant plants in their already lush color.
Is it too soon for these things? I asked my Italian mother, a woman born with a green thumb on one hand and a rolling pin on the other. After all, it was only late-February. In New England, that can signify anything from six more weeks of winter to the start of monsoon season. She hesitated. She made a face. Nooooo she said drawing the word out slowly, betraying her doubt. I felt strangely protective of these little blossoms. I found myself glancing over at them on my way to and from the car, wandering over to loom protectively (more like ridiculously) above them. I studied their faces and stems for signs of distress. I briefly wondered at the comical show I was surely putting on for the neighbors. “Honey, it’s one of the new owners doing something weird in her flower bed. Is that a tiny blanket in her hand? Maybe we should call someone.” How could Mother Nature possibly think rousing these little ones this early in the season was a good idea? How could I possibly think I know better than millions of years of the ancient call and response of our planet’s life cycles?
Right. Vulnerability can be misleading. We associate it with weakness, exposure, and lack. The women caregivers I help to service seem to exist in a perpetual state of vulnerability due to the nature of the diseases impacting their lives, their families, their children. They are “laid bare” as the old-timey-expression goes. But that does not mean they are frail or helpless. The vulnerability I see in these tender shoots in many ways resembles what I see in our women caregivers: their willful vulnerability evidences beauty, compassion, strength, and defiance. They are not afraid to stand tall against the elements. Their impact dwarfs their stature.
I witness the work of these women, and a statement by the writer Angella Nazarian comes to mind. In discussing her new book, Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World, Nazarian urges women to: “Find your fearless tribe.” “Look beyond the confines of your inner circle,” she writes, “and you will learn that there are many others whose heartbeats match your own. When you find them — cherish them, support them. For these are the ones who will stand the test of time, amidst the glory and troubled times; they will weather the storms of life with you and will be the faces you look for when you find victory.” We all need community, support, and connection to feed our wellbeing and to nurture the wellbeing of others. We all need our fearless tribes, our fellow blooms that help us grow, thrive, and survive.