I don’t know what it is called. And after all the unsuccessful research, I don’t even want to know. I am strangely and unusually satisfied with the idea that, at least this once, not knowing the name of something is, in fact, preferable.
It grows on a thin straight stem, smooth and straight like a green straw, and its satiny leaves all sprout from the bottom like a fountain. The flower itself is tiny, smaller than a thimble. It is white and shaped like a tulip, the petals cupped into a circle and overlapping each other in almost indiscernible layers, little children lined up in staggered rows. On some of the petals there is the very smallest amount of deep purple, almost as if someone had dipped them in blackberry juice or stained them with a pinprick of blood.
At least 25 years ago, back when Sandhill could still be called a new house (Ginny, my golden retriever, and Fritz, her sister who lived down the road, could still find crunchy bits of concrete that had broken off in the construction process.), I grew tired of the bands of empty crust that lined the foundation and, though I had neither any real interest in gardening nor the means to do it properly, I began considering putting things, flowering things, into the ground.
I don’t remember from which magazine I ordered it, but the “carpet of wildflowers” seemed just the thing: easy to plant and, because they were wildflowers, legitimately neglectable. Disappointed a bit by the size of the carpet, I decided to roll it out near the back door, between the outside faucet and the tall metal pole that I still used to bring in, on a clear night, three television stations. I followed the instructions — I think there was something about “covering with a light layer of soil and watering thoroughly” — and left the wildflowers to their wildness.
This was in the fall. By spring, I had forgotten about the carpet. If anything bloomed I probably mistook it for one of the many colorful weeds that grew in the field grass that I call my yard. By the next spring, I had realized that perhaps the tiny little seeds had needed something more than a light layer of soil and thorough watering.
In all the springs thereafter, only one flower sprouted — a happy jonquil, a flower I thought for certain grew from a bulb and not a seed and which the nice young man trimming the weeds along the edge of the house absentmindedly sheered to its root.
I eventually planted other things, things that actually produced flowers and foliage, colorful things like lilies and irises and hydrangeas. The television antenna gave way to a satellite dish and Ginny was followed by Lily and now Owen. Things changed.
And, then, a couple of weeks ago, just a few days before the party at Sandhill to celebrate the publication of my third book, the unnamed flower pushed its little head into the air, bobbing back and forth with the stiff breeze and smiling with every bob. Twenty-five years.
Twenty-five years covered by dirt and darkness. Twenty-five years ignored and forgotten. Twenty-five years turning into something amazing.
I would like to be able to congratulate myself on my patience and give myself credit for believing in invisible seeds. I would like to think that my occasional glance had at least a bit to do with the little flower’s determination and resilience. I would like to say that I was not totally surprised by its ta-da. But I was.
I was shocked and stunned and stupefied. Like a person always is when anticipation has faded to waiting and waiting has faded frustration and frustration has faded to giving up. Like when it is too hard to hold on in unending silence. Like when whatever you thought you knew turns out to be wrong. But, also, like a person always is in the presence of a miracle.
I don’t know its name, but I shall call it miracle.