|| by:

Hope for Flowers

hope-for-flowers-trina-paulus-hardcover-cover-art

Book: Hope for Flowers; Author: Trina Paulus

I have often felt that children’s stories or rather stories for children are actually more for adults in a way for they arise from a mind that was once a child and having gone through the many revealing twists and turns of Life is now ready to return to being that of a child’s. It carries a glimpse of what a child will see and experience in his own journey; it cautions and it teaches. And for the adults, it puts things in its place – it reminds us of a lesson learnt, lest we forget. It puts before us a mirror that reflects our life. And once again, it cautions and teaches. Hope for Flowers by Trina Paulus is one such book. For children as much as for adults as much as for her lead protagonists – caterpillars!

Every step of the way, I felt an uncanny resemblance to Stripe the Caterpillar. I identified with his emotions of joy, disappointment, anger, love. But most of all, I identified with his search for something deeper, more meaningful.

“There must be more to life
that just eating and
getting bigger.
“It’s getting dull.”
So Stripe crawled down
from the friendly tree
which had shaded and
fed him.
He was seeking more.
There were all sorts of new
things to find. Grass and dirt
and holes and tiny bugs –
each fascinated him.
But nothing satisfied him.
When he came across some
other crawlers like himself he
was especially excited.
But they were so busy eating
they had no time to talk –
just as Stripe had been.
“They don’t know any more
about life than I do,” he sighed.

Stripe doesn’t stay sad for too long as he stumbles across a pillar of caterpillars, one atop another, all climbing their way to the sky. Excited with the possibility of finding the fruit of his search, he joins the others.

“Maybe I’ll find what
I’m looking for.”
Full of agitation Stripe asked a
fellow crawler:
“Do you know what is happening?”
“I just arrived myself,” said the
other. “Nobody has time to
explain; they’re so busy trying to
get wherever they are going up
there.”
“But what’s at the top?”
continued Stripe.
“No one knows that either but it
must be awfully good because
everybody’s rushing there.
Goodbye, I’ve no more time!”

And so it goes on for days, time melting into itself. In the midst of the confusion and uncertainty, a spark appears to shake Stripe out of the monotony and he experiences love when he bumps into Yellow. The narrative brings through the aching joy that comes with being in love which many of us are bound to identify with but sadly enough, it also brings through the painful shame that we feel when we misuse or disrespect that love. And if one thought caterpillars didn’t go through heart ache and separation, the author would have us believe otherwise. Parting ways, Yellow although stricken with a sense of loss, continues to experiment with her life on earth, convinced that following the crowd couldn’t have taken her anywhere. When one is bold enough to distance oneself from the pack despite the lack of security, it is not without reward. And so it was with Yellow, when she chanced across a fellow caterpillar.

He seemed caught in some hairy
stuff.
“You seem in trouble,” she said.
“Can I help?”
“No, my dear, I have to do this
to become a butterfly.”
Her whole inside leapt.
“Butterfly – that word,”
she thought.
“Tell me Sir, what is a
butterfly?”
“It’s what you are meant to become.
It flies with beautiful wings and joins
the earth to heaven.
It drinks only nectar from the flowers
and carries the seeds to love from one
flower to another.”
“Without butterflies the world would
soon have few flowers.”
“It can’t be true!”
grasped Yellow.
“How can I believe
there’s a butterfly
inside you or me
when all I see is
a fuzzy worm?”
“How does one become a
butterfly?” she asked pensively.
“You must want to fly so much
that you are willing to give up
being a caterpillar.”
“You mean to die?” asked Yellow,
remembering the three who fell
out of the sky.
“Yes and No,” he answered.
“What looks like you will die but
what’s really you will still live.
Life is changed not taken away.
Isn’t that different from those
who die without ever becoming
butterflies?”

The tale moves on with a glimpse into the anguish felt by Stripe as he continues his search only to find disappointment at the end and not a pot of gold, but then brings back hope into his life as well as ours, when we find him mesmerized by Yellow in her new avatar, enlightened and determined to walk the same path and finally finds the answers that have so far eluded him.

The story is simple for it is about any of us, all of us. Delightfully illustrated, it leaves an after taste of poignancy, tinged not with despair but with hope for that is the one ingredient without which we would find it terribly hard to swallow anything life offers.