Optimism
Photography and Text By Philip Tulin & Mel Tulin © All rights reserved.

Driving slowly down the road, we were trying to assess the damage. We were losing the battle, but we had to persevere. We had a flash back to 35 years ago. Didn’t someone once say that you should learn from the past? And here is was, 35 years later, and did we learn anything? Maybe, but what?
 
When we moved into our home in the Northeast, it was in what was considered “country”. We had to drive 40 minutes to a movie theater and 20 minutes to go grocery shopping at a large supermarket. The neighbors were not right next door. We didn’t know what living in the country was really like. We came from a town that everyone hooted and gave a high five if someone saw a squirrel in their backyard. There was no wildlife around except a few pigeons, crows and the neighborhood dogs and cats. We were out in the country where the building Mel & Phil lots were 2+ acres for each home.
 
We quickly went out and purchased as many 2 foot white pines and birches that we could fit into the car. We had 5 acres around our house that was donated to the town. We were going to plant a forest, landscape the yard and have a lot of beautiful flowers.
 
Patiently, we stayed the course and eventually we planted about 200 tulip bulbs around all the landscaped beds that we had made. What a beautiful sight we envisioned for the following year. Those multi-colored tulips, among the rest of the flowers were going to be spectacular.
 
Then the snow came and spring eventually arrived. For those people who have never lived in the Northeast, the tulips are one of the flowers that bloom early in the spring. You see them starting to come out of the ground, the buds emerge and then you know that, within a few days, the multi-colored flowers will appear. There was one major problem….we would never see a tulip bloom in our yard. Every bud that was about to bloom was systematically eaten by the deer. The deer would go by, one by one, and within (what seemed like minutes), only stems were left in the ground. There were no flowers to be found!
 
And now, here we are in Colorado, planting wildflowers around the outside of our home. But, we are not the only ones planting wildflowers. All of our neighbors are planting wildflowers too. We access the damage as we drive down our road. One neighbor had purchased eight 4” pots and didn’t have the time to plant them that day so she left the pots outside to plant the next day. It didn’t matter at all! The chipmunks and the golden-mantled squirrels had a great meal that night. All that was left were eight skinny, little stems. Our neighbors set up 4 different kinds of contraptions to stop the little critters from eating the wildflowers. Boy, are those little animals smart… smarter than us! They had penetrated the well-thought-out wildlife armor. And they had another great feast!
 
Another neighbor thought she had a victory (or maybe just a moment of joy) when she left one of her plants out for a week and it was still intact. We had a few plants in the ground that lasted for almost a month. And then, systematically, the little “chippies” started from the right side of our beautiful Black-eyed Susan and ate one flower each day until there were none left. They even left some of the petals on the rock to show us! The chipmunk then moved on to the next wildflower. This wildflower had four beautiful, spiky purple flowers that we enjoyed for a total of 5 days. By the fifth day, there were no more flowers on that plant. Thanks, Chippie!
 
One morning this beautiful, little red Poppy popped up on our front lawn. It was just gorgeous, so delicate and vibrant. It lasted for 2 hours. One minute we were admiring it and the next minute it was gone…nothing but a little stem. We named the chipmunk running around in our front yard, “Poppy,” after the flower that he had probably just eaten. Or… could it have been a golden-mantled squirrel?
 
But even with all of our misfortunes in our “gardening,” there we all were, getting excited for next Thursday’s Farmer’s Market. Each one of us anticipated what new wildflowers that we might purchase. We all wanted to be the first one there so that we could get the flowers that we really wanted, especially if there was only one of that particular kind. All the neighbors were thinking the same thing. We didn’t have to put a plan together. Plant so many wildflowers that the chipmunks and golden-mantled squirrels couldn’t possibly eat them all in one season. Those little guys had to have a limit on their consumption of wildflowers! And if we planted more than they could eat, then we would enjoy at least some of our wildflowers. But, little by little, we could see that the wildflowers were now being planted in pots and placed on the high decks.
 
We asked one of our neighbors why she keeps planting wildflowers and her answer was “Optimism”. Maybe that’s why we all keep planting our wildflowers. It is a very good reason. There is always hope that some of those wildflowers just might outsmart those little chippies or golden-mantled squirrels!
 
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