About the Sampaguita: it is the national flower of my country, the Philippines, so I used it here to symbolize where I come from. The Sampaguita is a dainty, white, little flower that belongs to the Jasmine family. It's sometimes called the "Philippine Jasmine". It looks ordinary, but when it blooms, it fills the air with a fragrance so sweet it's captivating.
"The Jasmine Meets the Poppy"
Copyright ©2008 C. L. Sienes
"Some flowers grow best in the sun; others do well in the shade. God always puts us where we grow best and gives us good people to grow with". -Anonymous/from SMS
One fine day in November, Laura, the Golden Poppy was busy sunning herself on the deck of a balcony in one of the small, cozy apartment units in downtown San Diego, CA. The sun was shining gloriously and Laura, ever the sun-worshipper, couldn't help but bask in its warmth, her leaves sticking out from her sides like little arms stretching upwards to the heavens and her delicately beautiful golden petals opening in full bloom as if to meet the sun's kiss.
Oh, how she loved the sun! She thought, reaching for the book she had earlier taken out to the balcony with her and finding it, she lay back and began to catch up on her reading. What could be more relaxing than reading on a beautiful day like today? And having a day spent just for herself, on a day like today, what more could she ask for?
"Maybe some peace and quiet!" She muttered under her breath as a loud crash came directly on the wooden floor of her deck, startling her out of her reverie. Jerking upright, she moved to see what the crash was all about, her hazel eyes taking in the mess made of soil and what looked like remnants of a clay pot scattered about what was only moments ago a spotless wooden floor. Now, it looked as though a tornado had just passed through her balcony!
"Well," she sighed in dismay, "I guess some good things just never last." Placing a hand on each side of her waist, she raised her face skyward and closed her eyes to compose herself. Then, she moved to survey the mess, wondering what the green-and-white leafy thing that lay among the scattered soil and clay pot fragments was. It looked like a plant. A vine. Was it still breathing? She wondered, and just as she was about to bend over it to see if it was still alive, it stirred and out in the open came a dainty, little while flower dangling from a long, leafy stem that was currently suspended in mid-air and looked as if it came from the balcony directly above hers.
It was obviously another flower just like her. Except that she had never seen anything like it before and the "it" was now staring at her and wearing the exact expression Laura was wearing on her face---a mixture of pleasant surprise and bewilderment.
"Oh, hi!" The little while flower sheepishly smiled and the way it reached a hand to scratch its head in embarrassment looked so comical Laura's lips curled into a smile. "Sorry, I crashed..." it was saying and the voice that came out was small and carried a slight accent that was unfamiliar and told Laura that it wasn't from anywhere in San Diego or anywhere in the entire U.S. of A."...onto your deck like this," the little flower continued, its voice shaking nervously as did its tiny, fragile petals, Laura observed. "A crazy cat and a pesky mouse were doing the Tom and Jerry thing..."
The Tom and Jerry thing? Ah, the cat and mouse chase, Laura mused, suddenly feeling herself bubbling inside with laughter. "So you ended up doing the Tarzan thing," she giggled, gesturing at the way the tiny flower's long stem was still swaying back and forth in the air like a pendulum.
"Swinging from a vine, you mean?" The little flower's voice was cute and childlike. "Well, sort of. Except that my name isn't Tarzan and I'm a girl like you," she paused this way and that way, as if to show it had feminine features like Laura did.
"You're very funny."
"So, I've been told."
"Do you have a name?"
"Sure do." It finally stopped swinging from side to side in the air to Laura's relief. She was beginning to get dizzy from having tolook at her new-found friend as if she was watching a tennis match. "I'm Claire."
"And I'm Laura and I am so pleased to meet you," she said sincerely to the delight of the little flower named Claire.
"So am I," Claire murmured, taking the hand Laura extended for a warm handshake as if to seal their new-found friendship.
"So, what are you, Claire?" Laura casually leaned against the balcony railing, eyeing Claire with open interest. "I mean, I know you're a flower, but, what kind are you?"
"Sam-pah-guee-tah," Claire dared Laura to repeat after her and actually found Laura's failed attempts to properly pronounce the word very amusing and it was kind of cute, to hear the word roll off Laura's tongue like some sort of tongue-twister. "Oh, never mind. I'm what they call a Philippine Jasmine. And you are?"
"The Golden Poppy of California." It seemed fitting, Claire thought, watching the sunlight stream down as if to embrace Laura and when Laura's golden petals bloomed toluxuriate in the sun's warmth, it was then that Claire realized she'd never seen anything quite like her. Laura was golden and beautiful. And she, Claire, felt plain and simple.
"Lost your tongue?" Laura's laughing voice broke through Claire's thoughts. "How'd you end up here all the way from the Philippines, Claire?"
How indeed? "I dunno. It's just that often, the 'Great Gardener' simply has plans for each one of us on this bed of earth we're in and maybe He wanted me to be here for a reason."
Laura wondered what that statement meant. Day and night, she pondered the thought, looking for answers but there seemed to be none. Little did she know that she didn't need to look far for the answers because the answer was going to find her--it did find her one fateful night.
She'd been out on the balcony that night, a solitary figure gazing up at the dark and starless evening sky. Even the moon was hiding, she sighed, feeling as dark and empty as the night skies. She had never felt so alone and so cold in her entire life as she did now, her petals closing as she shivered against the chilly night breeze. A slight movement from the corner of her eye and a faint rustling sound seemingly coming from above alerted her senses to another presence but it no longer startled her at all. She didn't need to turn her head to know who it was. She just knew. It was like the beautiful friendship that had grown over the years had enabled her to tell exactly when her Jasmine friend would come to see her. Or HOW. For who else but Claire would literally "drop" by to pay her a visit?
And drop Claire did from the balcony above. Like a thrill-seeker executing a death-defying bungee jump, Claire, the Jasmine vine dropped as far below as she could get before bouncing and coiling like a spring until she was directly at eye level with Laura.
"Nice dive," Laura murmured dryly.
"Think I'd make a great stunt double for Angelina Jolie?" Claire quipped, swinging wildly from one side to the other in a bid to get her friend's attention.
To no avail. Laura only kept staring into blank space. "You should try sky-diving," was all she said.
What could be wrong? Claire wondered. But she was no fool. She never missed the tinge of pain in her friend's voice and it was all she needed to know that something was terribly wrong somewhere and THAT something was hurting her friend so much. Maybe she ought to try harder to make her smile, she decided, "Hey, Goldie!" In time, she'd taken to fondly calling Laura that nickname."Look, no hands! No hands!" She swung crazily from side to side in one last, desperate attempt to get a reaction from the Golden Poppy she'd grown to think of not justas a friend but also a long-lost sister. It didn't work.
"Guess, I can't make you smile, huh?" She pressed further, this time peering into Laura's misty eyes and seeing the pain lurking in those hazel depths.
Laura finally looked at Claire. "Is that why you came? To make me smile?"
"Well, I was out on the balcony and the night wind whispered that a heart was breaking somewhere.."
That was all it took for the tears to come spilling down Laura's cheeks. "Oh, Claire.."
"Care to talk about it?"
Laura stared at her friend for a moment and sighed, "I feel so bad," she paused to breathe deeply, sorrow written all over her tear-stained face.
"Because I'm bad." Laura's head dropped into her hands. "At least, I think I am...because, I did something I shouldn't have."
"Like what?" Claire asked softly.
"Like wanting to be where I'm not supposed to be."
Claire glided over to where her friend stood & placed a comforting hand on Laura's shoulder. "And where might that be, hmmm?"
"Where the tulips are." Laura whispered brokenly.
"Ah." Claire remembered that not too long ago, a gorgeous tulip fell from the topmost balcony and landed on Laura's deck just as Laura was teaching Claire how to play poker.:) The tulip said it got separated from the others inside a box a man had delivered to one of the units in the apartment building. It was a Dutch Tulip and it fast became their friend, hers and Laura's. Except that the tulip had more in common with Laura, the Golden Poppy because Claire was a vine and was often busy attending to other matters she couldn't spend as much time with Laura no matter how much she wanted to. So it came to pass that the tulip and Laura hit it off so well as friends so that when the time came for the tulip to leave, Laura was deeply saddened.
"But, you never did go to where the tulips are."
"It would've been so wrong."
The 'Great Gardener' had made it clear, plain, and simple to all of the flowers He had nurtured: that no flower of His could leave the very bed of earth He'd each planted them into. Every flower knew that. Laura, the Golden Poppy & Claire, the Jasmine knew that. As did the tulip and all the other flowers in the great garden.
"Why are you torturing yourself this way?" The Jasmine asked the Golden Poppy. "Thinking that you must surely be the baddest flower ever on this bed of earth?"
"Because I am."
"No, you're not".
"Yes, I am."
Claire, the Jasmine shook her head to show that she didn't agree to that line of thinking at all. "Simply for wanting to be where thetulips are?" Claire asked quietly.
Laura dropped her gaze to the floor. "Okay, so I didn't go but still, the fact that I wanted to...well, that sounds wrong, too."
"You know, Goldie," Claire reached out a hand to brush a solitary tear that had fallen down Laura's cheek. "If you really were as bad as you think you are, you would have gone ahead to do as you very well pleased without stopping to think if it was wrong."
"Ssshhh," Claire placed a finger between Laura's lips to silence her. "You knew it wasn't right and that's why you didn't do it. That doesn't make you evil at all." Claire beamed at her friend and Laura felt the full impact of that smile, making Laura feel as if all the stars in heaven had just been lit up to fill the dark, gloomy skies with light. "Remember when I said it isn't always easy to do the right thing?"
"You had chosen to do the right thing even when you knew it was going to hurt so much...and all in obedience to the 'Great Gardener'who knows that."
"Think He'll understand?"
Claire nodded with a smile. Overwhelmed with thankfulness and gratitude for the kind of friend and friendship she'd been blessed with, Laura wrapped her arms around Claire in a warm embrace. "Thank you for being my friend, Claire."
"Aack! Goldie, I can't breathe!"
"Ooops, sorry," Laura stepped back and eyed her little friend whose friendship had come to mean so much to her over the years.
"I might never know what it's like to be where the tulips are..."
"I know," Claire said. JUST AS I'LL NEVER KNOW WHAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE HAD EVERY GOAL I HAD LONG AGO BEEN FULFILLED. OR WHERE THOSE DREAMS WOULD HAVE TAKEN ME. BUT, NOW, I DON'T THINK I'D STILL WANT TO KNOW. NOT WHEN I'VE DISCOVERED WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT IN THIS LIFE....Claire thought to herself but instead said, "But, for all we know, the 'Great Gardener' may only have spared you from further hurt or even suffering...or worse if you had to live in wintry weather where only Dutch Tulips survive, not Poppies and Jasmines like you and me."
Just as tulips wouldn't be able to survive being baked by the heat of the sun out in the open, Laura realized. Now, everything made perfect sense. True, it may hurt to think she's leaving everything she thought defined HER but she knows now, more than ever, that it will not hurt this way for always. There'll still be better days. And maybe life may not be perfect and there'd be rain every now and then. Laura threw a sideways glance at her good friend, Claire, and found herself thinking that life would be anything but dull. Not with her Jasmine friend around.
"Hey, Claire!" She called to the little white flower. "Do you think you can teach me how you vines swing in mid-air?" She said laughingly.
Claire considered it for a moment. "Okay...but only if you let me beat you just once in a game of poker!"
Laura laughed. Claire laughed. And from then on, Laura, the Golden Poppy and Claire, the Sampaguita, saw each other through all kinds of weather. The way only true friends can.
---T H E --- E N D---