Bulblical Knowing

By John Blumberg

Andersen Alumnus and author of Return On Integrity


I’m always drawn to those amaryllis bulbs that they rollout as big “End Cap” displays around the Christmas season. You know, the ones containing the bulb, a simple plastic planter and a tiny bag of potting soil — packed in a nice little box with the picture of the most beautiful amaryllis in full bloom.

I used to buy one for my mom ever single year as just one more little Christmas gift for her to open. It became a standard that she looked forward to opening and soon-after planting. These boxed blooms-in-waiting make for the perfect generic Christmas gift to have under one’s tree for when the unexpected guest walks-in with a gift you hadn’t anticipated – especially if I’m one of those who hasn’t fully mastered the ability to simply receive. Maybe that is why I routinely bought three or four of them every year.

A few years back, I had two left over. The extra bulbs made for the perfect symbol of “new beginnings” – to unwrap, water and put out just as all of the Holiday decorations were being put away. With the darkest days of the winter season looming, the sprout of tiny leaves brought their own degree of hope. With the clang and clutter of the Holidays long faded, eventually the anticipated buds burst open in their own sense of joyful exclamation.

If you bother to look close enough, it is indeed a miracle to behold.

With these two bulbs left over, their combined four blooms looked like a chorus singing in formation. A couple of weeks later their daily encores of beauty started to fade. Likely in a rush, I cut the leaves just above the top of the bulbs and stuck them in the basement.

Seven years later, I stumbled back across these two extras – the soil and the bulbs dried almost beyond recognition. It just so happened that the next morning I was meeting at a nearby Starbucks, with my great friend Bob Hursthouse, for our typical dark coffee and deep conversation. As the owner of Hursthouse Landscape Architects, there was simply no one I knew in my life who would know more about plants than Bob. I figured he might know a thing or two about bulbs as well.

I shared with him about my recent find of the petrified bulbs. On a whim I asked, “If I pull them from the basement and water them, do you think they will grow again?” Without hesitancy, he responded, “Sure.” I pushed harder – but will they bloom? Taming my expectations, he said, “Yes, but it will probably take about 3 years of care.”

I don’t know if Bob actually added the words “of care” but it was what I distinctly heard. I left with a commitment to care for these two. I went home the same day and pulled them from the basement. I gently watered the pitiful site with little hope, but great trust that Bob was right. With what seemed like pointless waterings over the next three weeks, I was stunned to see what seemed to be the tip of a leaf coming forth. I thought my eyes were deceiving me.

Over the months to follow, I made sure the tiny couple of leaves from each bulb got ample water and sun. As the leaves faded, I returned what came to be known around our house as my “science project” to the basement. The next year produced stronger leaves and the year to follow produced even more robust and more plentiful leaves. With each of the three passing years, I gave my “science project” much attentive care with no expectation of any bloom.

Until this year.

Knowing that I intentionally cared for these bulbs over the timeframe in which Bob had cast my expectations, I pulled the bulbs from the basement hesitantly hoping it might be the year of the blooms. After all, the bulbs had made their steady progress from petrified objects in darkness to flourishing leaves in the light.

A month later, amongst the familiar thriving leaves, a small stalk appeared with what seemed to be a fragile bud. In an attempt to tame my hope, I wondered if buds could be empty. As the strength of the stem grew the bud followed.

As I descend the stairs early one morning the most beautiful coral blooms greeted me as if they were singing the story of their miracle resurrection at the top of their lungs.

Maybe for longer than I should, day after day, I would simply stop and take-in the detailed beauty of these stunning blooms. As I stood, gratefully taking-in their elegance, it was much like sitting on a porch with a sense of wonder. And that got my mind wandering and wondering – like bulbs in a basement, how maybe our core values can sit dormant in the darkness of our own core.

Petrified from no care.

And how – through the circumstances of life – our needs, opinions, beliefs, wants and automatic behaviors soon forget these core values are even there. At some point, certain life events eventually allow us to stumble upon them. As we notice their petrified long-forgotten or never discovered essence, the question becomes: do I simply toss them to the wind or commit to care for them. Really care for them – getting to know them, building a relationship with them.

You may sincerely wonder if they will ever grow. More importantly — will they ever bloom again? It might take three years of care. But I will promise you: they will.

And when they do, they will be the most precious gift you can ever give away … again, and again, and again. No matter how many unexpected guests walk into your life.

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts! We could all benefit, if you would be so kind to share your thoughts email me at John@BlumbergROI.com!