“So beautiful,” came the woman’s voice. Rose almost didn’t hear her. The sky had turned from bright blue to streaks of soft pinks, purples, yellows, and oranges. For a fleeting moment, jealousy stabbed at Rose’s heart as Mother Nature turned the horizon into a watercolor painting. It didn’t seem fair, she thought, that she was relegated to the same colors day after day, yet the sky offered a blank canvas for the most spectacular of creation.
But then the woman’s voice broke through Rose’s indignation as she called to her friend, “You have to see this one.”
“Wow!” came her friend’s response, leaning over Rose to get a better look. “Just gorgeous.” She was so close, Rose could feel the woman’s hair slightly tickle her.
Rose felt mollified by these words, though she often heard the same sentiments every day from visitors. From the time she was a bud, Rose had always been showered with praise: people photographed her; traced her satiny petals with their fingers; inhaled her sweet scent. She knew she was the most beautiful flower in the garden, but instead of feeling grateful for this honor every morning and night Rose cast her gaze upward and compared herself to the beauty she saw in the sky. Her only solace was she knew if she could never win this competition, then no other flower would either. Rose relegated herself to second place status and stayed that way for a very long time.
Then one morning as Rose stewed about a particularly glorious sunrise, with fluffy purple, pink, and yellow clouds, she heard one of her usual compliments, “I’ve never seen such a beautiful flower!” What was unusual about this compliment, however, is it was not directed at Rose. The voice came from three bushes over.
“How dare you!” Rose thought and she straightened up her stem and fanned out her petals in defense. Only she didn’t straighten up fully – there was a slight droop to her – and some of her petals now crinkled with brown. She couldn’t even see the other flower that had received her compliment. How do I compare? she wondered.
The uncertainty ate away at her for the rest of the day and deep into the night. Rose didn’t even notice the sunset that evening. But she couldn’t ignore the sunrise the next morning, for she was again greeted with compliments directed towards someone else. “Perfect,” said the voice. “See how the morning light hits the petals?”
“Yes,” Rose heard another person say. “I bet this photograph wins first place in the garden’s annual contest.”
Rose recoiled at the words. Never once did anyone suggest she would win first place. She again tried to puff herself up, but it was in vain as even more of her petals had now withered. Rose’s stem slumped even further than the day before, but that could have been due to the realization of what was happening as much as it was due to time.
“Oh, please,” Rose begged as the sun ascended higher in the sky. “Just let me go back to how I was.” She kept it up all day and into the night. By the next morning, nothing had changed, though, except for a few more withered petals. So, she tried a new tactic. “Please, give me back my beauty. This time I’ll appreciate it.” Again, Rose pleaded with Mother Nature for the rest of the day and throughout the night.
The next morning rang out with a sunrise so rich and beautiful it reduced Rose to tears. She no longer begged, as there was not much left to her – just shriveled petals and a limp stem. But her tears were no longer of sadness. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m so glad I got to see such a beautiful sunrise one more time.”