Good Housekeeping, Part III: The Family Garden

Tiny Tim tip-toed through the tulips in the sixties, but most of us don’t relish tip-toeing around people’s moods and feelings to keep the peace, to keep tempers from erupting, or to find a singular moment when we can breathe with ease.

Yet sometimes we do. We have to. We move around on tip-toe to avoid confrontation and opt for silence when we can manage it.

Tulip Era in the Ottoman Empire...

Tulip Era in the Ottoman Empire… (Photo credit: Kıvanç Niş)

Words pile up like tulip petals on the floor next to the chair, they scatter along the surfaces and counters, they fill our closets with clutter that too soon becomes impossible to manage and difficult to eradicate.

Our closets are stuffed with words we restrain behind closed doors because they are tough to retract once they’re out there, swelling in the air between us and sucking up the breathable air. We force those words down our throats where they seem less likely to do harm. Then we slam the closet door shut. We’ll clean it out next year.

And we say nothing, tip-toeing around in silence that begets more silence.

The words we shouldn’t say, as well as the ones we should, gather dust, like everything else in the closet. Some fight hard to be heard, becoming more dangerous because of their confinement.


Spring is both cleansing and refreshing, no more so than when we bring tulips and other flowers into the house. We appreciate the newness and possibility they proclaim, the life and color they add, infusing the season of renewal and rebirth with vibrant and deep flashes of yellows, reds, and purples.

But the first flowers of the season don’t last long without clean air, quenching rain, warm sunshine, and rich soil that contains a balanced complement of nutrients, all of which encourage them to thrive. And this is just as true in our relationships with family and friends as it is in our flowerbeds.

Relationships require a delicate balance of kind words and honest conversation that allow and encourage healthy understanding and growth to take place. Relationships, like gardens, require the right words at the right time, spoken in the right way. Hmmm. Lots of room for mistakes here, so we’d better be careful about the seeds we’re planting and the kind of growth they inspire.

The way we tend our gardens is akin to the difference between the springtime palletes of a Renoir or a Monet compared to a season of stormy violence and fear

One of several versions of the painting "...

One of several versions of the painting “The Scream”. The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

like that depicted in Munch’s The Scream. One a garden full of healthy, blooming flowers versus a patch of untended and ruined ground that engenders only bitter weeds, violent storms, and horrid nightmares instead.


Winter comes no matter what we do, but even the harshest winters welcome the return of spring flowers if we put forth the effort to keep our closets clear and supply the flowers in our gardens with nutrients that will bring forth the finest things they have to give. It’s what makes a barefoot trip through the tulips worth it.


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