Sunday in the Park
February 16, 2008
When I came home from work, after the sun had gone down, I was immediately drawn to the tulips on the table. Though I had arranged them just so the dreary day before, on this day the sun had talked to them and they were still leaning toward the window where the sun had been.
It is a simple fact of nature but it is one tiny thing that never ceases to amaze me. How do they know to turn their faces to the sun? Their long sturdy stems, straight in the morning, now all curvy and sensuous.
And I was reminded of an old Sylvia Plath poem where I think the very first line is something like, "The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here." The poem, my college professor taught, was written after one of Sylvia’s many suicide attempts. "I do it rather well, I do it, so it feels like hell." And like all moony-eyed young single girls of the late Sixties, I found Sylvia a fascination. Her cheating husband, her two little girls, her life in dreary, not merry, old England and her final "successful" attempt at suicide. Feeling down? Read a little Plath. She’ll help you wallow in the sad, mad, bad, parts of life, until you can sigh and say, "What is the point of it all?"
Unless, of course, you buy a bunch of tulips.
No wonder she found them a distraction in her hospital room in the middle of winter. The tulips are so vibrant, so spring approaches in meaning, so alive even after their stems have been cut. And they can’t help themselves. The sun makes them happy and they involuntarily move toward to it. This is the time of year I find flowers in the home a necessity, not a luxury. After watching some rodent character stick his head out a hole because he, too, is looking for the sun, we decide based on that piece of complete folk wisdom that winter will last another six weeks. Which, if you live in Park City this year and look outside, seems pretty likely, with or without the furry animal prediction.
The snow this season has been epic. Even old timers say it has been multiple decades since there has been a winter quite as snowy as this one. And if we had seen it coming and stockpiled bags of snow melt, which is now back-ordered statewide, we could have done better than on the stock market.
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Just the other day, I saw my neighbors from the cul-de-sac behind my house at a function in town. They laughed and said it was good to actually see me. They had taken to calling my house "the igloo" and, though they had seen chimney smoke emerge from time to time, the color and shape of my house was hidden behind the mini-mountains of snow in both my front and back yards. Other kind neighbors have carved a path between piles for my car to enter the garage and there is another path to the front door. But the piles are nearly high enough that I can walk undetected from my front door to the driveway. It is a bit like a snow tunnel. And the little kid in me loves it.
And though I try not to think about how emergency vehicles would actually find house numbers and get around in case of real need, I rather like the fact my often-too-busy street is now a single snow-covered lane. It forces you to take it slow and be aware and see, at least in this little corner of the world, in a different, picture-postcard kinda way.
I say all this about the snow because, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t been skiing this season and I can’t, firsthand, sing the praises of the spectacular grooming and avalanche control and clear quiet mornings started by riding up a chairlift. But my friends do all that and proclaim this season epic. So I understand and appreciate by association that the skiing is legendary this year.
But there is an issue for me and others who have shared their frustrations in groups large and small. Given that we all love the beauty and great skiing that this gianormous winter has provided, the drawback seems somewhat petty to mention. But the tulips understood it innately.
We crave the sun.
Last Sunday, there were moments. In the center of the room the sun poured through the windows and, like a lazy cat or maybe a smart, self-preserving one, I went for the patch of warm light. I curled up in a bit of a ball and fell fast asleep. And I dreamt not of mice but of warm beaches, and walking barefoot and not looking for my lost mittens. And I saw my little yard, not six feet under in snow but green, green, with little shoots of living things having blooms popping open in gay profusion. It was rather like a Technicolor Disney movie. All happy and sunny and cheerful.
When I woke, the sun had long left the living-room floor and the sky outside. And I wondered if the whole crazy, warm sunny afternoon had even been real. And then I looked over at the tulips. Still leaning toward where the light had been. Unlike poor Sylvia, I love the excitable tulips in winter. It does give one pause when the gray days are endless. But the tulips remind us of what is programmed within. We will reach for the sun whenever it appears and our very shape will changed by it. And this winter we will seek out those all too rare moments in a newly appreciative way, perhaps this very Sunday in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. Orr is also a former editor of The Park Record.