Within walking range, for a full week tulips have bloomed only within a single small strip of yard in front of an old hillside home.
Not only are those tulips blooming, but they have burst into a riot of brilliant color. Outsized blood-red petals announced their presence first and were quickly followed by a supporting chorus of orange, violet, yellow, and summer white.
Elsewhere in the city, the tulips’ bulb brethren have managed at best to push stolidly through layers of fall detritus and emerge in thick, swirling leaves.
What could account for this singular splendor? Is this lone garden bedded in imported soil rich with exotic compounds?
It seems just as likely that this particular flower bed was sprinkled with fairy dust, or that whoever tends it possesses ancient secrets, perhaps emerging from the colonial house’s lavender door in the middle of the night to murmur incantations under the stars.
I’m not sure I need to know why I saw what I saw there.
A newsman described the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died last week, as having pioneered the literary form of magical realism, which the reporter described as “reality with a touch of the miraculous.”
Wait, I thought. Isn’t that life?
The first volume of Marquez’s autobiography was Living to Tell the Tale (a bit of sublime wordplay). Marquez recounted scenes from his childhood which anyone would recognize from their later quasi-fictional incarnations in A Hundred Years of Solitude.
The latter work featured such indelible images as a trickle of blood deliberately wending its way around a room: it “came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.”
Is that really so much more improbable than being able to touch the silk ribbon petals of flowers which have blossomed within only a single plot and lot of land, while thousands of tulips-to-be lie dormant and unseen in identical meteorological conditions?
Is magical realism, for that matter, so different from loving other mortals as if life depends on it–and knowing that it does?
Marquez penned another precept in the same novel: “There is always something left to love.”
To believe that is to trust the unverifiable, to anchor one’s life in something yet more invisible than those still-subterranean tulips-to-be. It is, in its way, to believe in magic.
As Marquez wrote in Love in the Time of Cholera: “Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
I feel I have lived to tell tales garnered in a life of sometimes exceedingly grim reality, but still–and always–touched by the miraculous.
Perhaps I am a magical realist.