Long before we learned to love, we learned to lose; this is an education the world offers free of charge. As children, we first mourned the roses in October, the neighbor’s night-blooming cactus when we left for school, the rotting tree wrung out by lightning. (Once, at four, I stooped down to pick up a monarch butterfly resting bright in the grass. For me this was the earliest sting of betrayal; the creature had died with its wings stretched out.) Since then our knees have bent to other griefs and we have all but forgotten these open-air funerals of our youth. We have forgotten that death first met us in a garden.
We have forgotten, too, that this was where our story changed.
Come spring in the temperate zones, the snowdrops know it before the rest of us. Appearing with the great thaw, they could almost be made of the snow itself—a fourth phase of water, perhaps. I have imagined them to be a promise, a down payment, if you will, on the resurrection of the earth. Only in the long-wintered regions, where the cold drives us inside, into ourselves, and February folds our arms across our chests, does March hold such drama that these paper-white petals can be hailed, with full sincerity, as messengers of the firstborn of all creation, of the first one whom earth could not hold.
With a forcefulness so tender it shames even the early spring, his love flowers. Beneath the ground we have felt him waking so that we might wake, now taking with pierced feet the stand against death that we could not take, forsaking Gethsemane’s curse in order that we might forsake Eden’s. And today the white flowers in my city are talking like tombside angels. This story does not end as you think it does, say the snowdrops. This story does not end.
For today it is life that has met us in the garden.
Hopewell Rogers is a student at Yale College.