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My Kingdom for a Rose
My Kingdom for a Rose
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away…no wait…that’s not quite right.
The kingdom was actually about a stone’s throw away from my backyard, well, at least the castle was anyway. In actuality, it was just the biggest and bestest house I had ever seen. There was not just one swimming pool, but two. The stable made my parent’s house look like a doll house, and we could have parked both of our cars in the front foyer. To say the least, it was big, huge, and gargantuan, like a castle.
There were only three of them, Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell and Clara. As we grew up, Clara and I had started out as friends, but by the time we had reached middle school, I most definitely knew that I certainly did not have a place at the Caldwell table. Not only was it considered low class to hang out with the grounds keeper’s son, but I had turned into a regular guy, while Clara had been introduced to society as one of the most eligible young ladies for miles around. I loved to get my hands dirty, Clara liked to get manicures. I liked to run barefoot through the fields behind our house; Clara liked to show off her pretty feet in expensive sandals. No work was too much work, and I took great pride in maintaining the grounds in the way my father had, long before my parents had been taken away in a car crash during my 19th year. Clara, on the other hand enjoyed a life of luxury, every whim a reality, every wish of hers came true. We had definitely become way too different to ever be true friends.
So, let me try again…
Once upon a time in my own back yard, a funny thing happened on the way to the garden… yes, that’s much better!
It all started with a little rose bush that I spied on a trip to the Home Garden Store when I was just 15 years old. I always loved to garden, and quite regularly supplied lots of fresh veggies and cut flowers for the dinner table even from a very early age. I had even started a small potpourri business by the time I was 12, which I ran with the help of the internet. I took great pride in mixing just the right blend of one flower with another, adding maybe a few berries, herbs or nuts to produce the most fragrant and long lasting scents for hundreds of miles.
Reflecting back, I sometimes wonder if that rose bush actually KNEW I was coming… it did seem to draw me to it from its little corner on the third shelf.
As was my usual way of shopping, I was aimlessly wandering around checking out all the new plants that had arrived, when I swear…this little rose bush seemed to GLOW…yes I said glow. Some may argue that it was just the way the light coming in through the skylights had reflected off its leafy green surface, some might say the overhead lights were shining just perfectly that day, and some might even say I am crazy. You can say what you want, I am pretty certain it glowed.. It was like there was a soft angelic halo emitting from somewhere inside.
The moment I saw it, I had to have it. Counting out my money, I realized I had just enough to get it…so get it, I did.
I am not really sure what I expected out of this tiny little rose bush, but within months it had grown big and beautiful. There was only one slight problem…it never produced a single rose. The leaves were shiny and green, and there were lots of little buds, but not one ever opened.. Not in 6 years.
Imagine my surprise then, when one bright gorgeous morning, I walked out to the garden, and there it was.. A gigantic yellow rose. It was so beautiful, and such a golden yellow, that it almost looked like it was made of pure gold. With just the right lighting, and standing at the perfect angle, one could see a slight metallic shimmer, and envision that it truly was golden. Even from where I stood, my head spun with the intoxicating scent which was heavy and sweet.
As I stood there transfixed, I wondered why now? Why did this rose bush decide to produce such a beautiful rose today? And then I saw her... it was only a small glimpse out of the corner of my eye, but she was there.. She was shimmering and faultless; with the same glow I knew I had seen when I was a mere 15 years old, and gazing upon this bush for the first time. She spoke, very softly.
Roses are red, but this one is golden
Stays alive for whom it is beholden
The golden rose on this lovely vine
Grows only for those who never say mine
Reach inside for fortune and fame
Reward will be thorns and a whole lot of pain
Pluck with care and a very pure heart
Reward will be great and will never depart
Tread lightly when choosing to pluck
Only those with the right heart will have much luck
And then she was gone.
Huh… Surely my heart was pure and true…wasn’t it? I reached over to pluck the rose thinking how beautiful it would be once preserved and dried… excited over how the scent would add so much to many of my mixes… and immediately felt a sharp stabbing pain. Blood began to run down my hand from the rather large cut. Wrapping my hand a few minutes later, I marveled at how ruthless the pain was, how ugly the wound. I guessed I would never be able to place that rose on my dinner table, nor savor the scent derived from its oils for years to come. As far as I was concerned, that was the end of that…
However, the rose had a mind of its own it seemed, and became somewhat of a legend both near and far – much like the Sword in the Stone. People came from miles away – some from a different country altogether to try their luck at plucking the golden yellow rose. Not one ever succeeded. Many a man, woman and even child suffered horrible injuries to their arms and hands in their attempts, but the rose stayed on the vine, true in color, shape and scent as the first day I saw it. No matter what the weather – no matter what the circumstance..it was the same, day in and day out.
It was during this time that my small little potpourri business grew by leaps and bounds. Curious onlookers and those hoping to pluck the rose became my biggest customers. I discovered that the leaves that fell from the rose bush alone produced a wonderfully intoxicating scent that soon became the product that everyone had to have. I didn't need to pluck the actual rose, and I was grateful for the income it generated.
Nearly a year after it first appeared, I saw Clara standing by the rose bush. Her dark hair was shining in the sunlight; her brown eyes were bright with excitement. The beauty of the scene took my breath away.
I had heard that she was to be married by the end of summer. Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell had specifically requested extra flowers be planted, extra care had to be given to the lawn, and several trees were added to the landscape. By all accounts, it was going to be a gloriously opulent wedding, staged on these very grounds. I am sure that the union was well planned and choreographed, right down to the littlest detail.
It took no time at all for me to ascertain that Clara wanted the rose, as the immaculate centerpiece to her bridal bouquet. Before I could even remind her that only those with the purest intentions could truly savor its beauty, she buried her head in the bush to inhale the scent of the rose more closely.
Things happened rather swiftly after that. Within minutes, Clara’s beautiful face was torn and bloodied. Her screams brought the rest of the house running…Mr. Caldwell, the servants, the cook, and lastly Mrs. Caldwell – who promptly fainted. An ambulance was summoned and arrived within mere moments. Clara screams could still be heard as it raced down the private lane, sirens blaring.
Darkness seemed to overtake the entire valley. Clara was horribly disfigured. Her fiancé decided he no longer wished to get married, hurriedly explaining that he was too young, and needed to explore other “possibilities” first. The Caldwell’s moved to Europe, unable to bear the thought of a less than perfect daughter in their flawlessly planned life. Except for one housekeeper and the cook, the staff was largely dismissed, and Clara was basically left on her own. The intense beauty that she once had was gone forever. I watched from afar as she wandered the grounds, despondent, the spark gone from her eyes, the sure steps replaced with small tentative ones, her head, once held high with much pride, hanging low.
And slowly, my heart began to break for her.
I started sitting beside her as she sat in the garden. At first we didn't really talk very much, but slowly she began to open up to me. She felt ugly, unwanted, and betrayed. The man she was supposed to marry, she realized that she never really loved him. She had felt pressured from everyone, even the family’s financial advisor who obviously saw great dollar signs in the union of two young people from such wealthy families. She thought she loved him, but realized it was the love of the life they would have together that she loved more. She hated the mansion. It felt cold and dark and dreary. She loved the garden, but hated the golden yellow rose. One day, in a moment of pure despair, sobs racking her body, she asked me to destroy the rose bush.
The rose bush had been bought with the last few dollars I had owned at the time. I had spent years cultivating it without any reward. Finally, it had produced a beautiful golden yellow rose, which had brought people from all walks of life to my backyard. In the process, I had found wealth unlike I had ever known, and life was good. Was she crazy!? If I destroyed the bush, what would I be left with…? Could I even do such a thing without great consequence to myself – to my body? No one had ever been able to pluck the rose just from the vine… I imagined the horrible pain that I would go through in order to pull it out by its roots… if it was even possible. Thankfully the matter was dropped.
Who knows how the heart finds exactly what it is supposed to find, but I knew I had found what my heart had yearned for in Clara. True, she was no longer the raving beauty that I had once admired from afar, but her inner beauty began to emerge as time went by. Her laugh could make any day feel like the sunniest of days, the rays of her laughter soaking into my skin, much as the rays of sun would caress my face on a warm summer day. The scars on her face hardly seemed noticeable to me anymore, and I loved just being in her presence. Most days, life was glorious and grand. But some days were dark with despair, and the forlorn look on her face whenever anyone showed up to see the Rose broke my heart in two every time.
I knew what I had to do. I also knew that this was going to be very very painful.
The smile that I knew I would be rewarded with gave me courage. I “suited up” as best as I could. Long heavy thick cloth gloves, with long rubber gloves stretched over them. Long pants, a football helmet with a tiny screen soldered on for even more protection. I had spent weeks preparing my gear, but now was the time.
I stood before it, fear welling up in my throat. I had seen firsthand the ravage done to people by this plant… I closed my eyes against the impending pain, and reached into the rose bush.
But, alas, no pain..no huge gashes on my hands, no blood, no gouging of my eyes. And the rose bush was ruined in one swift tug.
How can I explain exactly what happened? Was it the pureness of my intentions that allowed the bush to be destroyed? Did it somehow know that I was not plucking it for money? Did it know I was doing it for love?
I will never know.
Six weeks after I destroyed the plant, a new one arose in its place, but this one, unlike its predecessor, produced many beautiful flowers. One year the blooms would be bright and yellow, the next year they were vibrant and red, and still another they were the purest white.
The “reward” I received for plucking that rose? Well, let’s just say that same laugh I used to love so much in Clara now rings out every day from three little ones that thankfully get their looks from their mama. The business is still going strong, I use petals from the many blooms that took the place of the golden yellow rose, and some people have stated it gives my potpourri a scent that has never been able to be recreated anywhere else. Clara sold the mansion, and we live happily and humbly in the same little cottage I grew up in.
The Golden Yellow Rose was gone, but its legend remained as a source of storytelling for many years. Much like the little one I just told here.
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
If Jesus Christ is the Rose of Sharon, so sweet and lovely a flower as many describe; let me advise everyone to get this Rose for yourselves as soon as possible. (John 3:16) May you discover the love of your life, who will find you as they are also fervently seeking Him, or may you already know the happiness of spending your life with someone with whom you can share the joy of having a personal relationship with Jesus.
If this story touches you in any way, good or bad, please feel free to comment below. Your comments inspire me, encourage me, or help me to see the error of my ways and are always welcomed!