The Sublime

Art by Rafael Oliva

There was an almost painful quality to their beauty, which she found all the more surreal up close, with color that burst and appeared to run liquid. Gazing directly at them from above, she was instantly drawn in by their complexity of hues- plums ringed in fuchsia, sunbursts circled with coral- as if they had been born into one skin but decided to begin anew, in a different color, a different life. There seemed infinite variation from flower to flower- in color, stature, and even fragrance, if she wasn’t mistaken. She identified light notes of sage, lavender, and something sweet and nostalgic Denver could not place but could have been pressed to name as cotton candy.  

She was completely entranced.  

Despite their unreal loveliness, the orchids somehow managed to also evoke an exciting familiarity- like that of the first day of school, of a fresh return to hope and promise- within Denver. They looked painted or sculpted rather than grown, with infinite love and patience imbued in the creation of each bloom, which seemed to her evidence of a divine, benevolent power, a glimpse into realms unknown to the human eye. She had long been aware of the miraculous and irrefutable evidence of a divine hand in the most mundane, as well as the most sublime: a flock of birds overhead in perfect formation, a near-crisis averted through no doing of her own, and now, most certainly, in these flowers. One simply needed to slow down enough to realize it, to relinquish control of one’s certainties and judgments for just a fraction of an hour to appreciate the complexities and mercies of the world around him or her. It was natural to feel helpless, and even hopeless, at times. Especially after him. But Denver took comfort knowing there were powers greater than herself orchestrating perfection in the skies, waters, and even in her seemingly insignificant life.  

These were thoughts she never voiced aloud, not out of any distinct sense of shame, but out of a lack of deeper, personal connection to other beings. She had few she could number friends and even fewer she named kin. Hers was a family tree in the winter of its life, barren of fruit, bereft of leaves, but still standing tall, fully intent to soldier out its remaining days with pride, come what may. Yet, standing beneath this cerulean sky, enveloped by natural wonders, she couldn’t help but feel the stirrings of spring and new life arise within her. Denver took this as the sign she had sought for nearly six hundred miles and made her way to the door, certain that life would change dramatically for her once it opened.  

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