The rose tender tends the rose bush. The rose bush is a thing of beauty, but months before the beauty blooms in the bud, the rosebush is an amorphous mass of nothing but leaves, stalks and thorns. The rose tender pricks and lacerates his hands a hundred times and still he returns to his tending. His love of the rose is a heavier weight than the pain of the thorns, and the latter is subdued by his longing to protect and preserve and enhance the beauty he marvelled at, when he first took the office of the tender. His hands may grow bloody and inflamed and scars may mark his craft, but still, the rose tender tends. His passion is unextinguished, his care and tender pity, undulled as the blade he wields to prune. The suffering of his prickly trial does not turn him back, but rather draws him to the rose.
Her timely flourishing and sweet fragrance are his medicine. When her precious crown, with its diadem of petals greets that happy morning no cloud could spoil, the sight blinds his hunting eyes. From that Damascus of delight he stumbles, thrilled at the thought that he should do this all again and all the while, blind to the thorns’ delivered pain.
The rose does not mean to prick the tender; it has no malice to pierce his heart, it cannot will him hurt: it is a rose. Thorns are the proof this queen of flowers will bless the rose tender with a lifetime of untold splendour. Time and time and time again, she will bloom for him and surpass her unsurpassable best. Season on season, she will flood his world with incomparable bliss and he will forget as ever he has, the struggle that has ferried him to this shore of wonder; and as he forgets, he also will remember that thorns do not make the rose: thorns make the tender.
Not being pricked is an honest man’s wish, and to save himself the pain, a tender may decide he is done with roses. He may tear up the bush from the soil and vow he’ll never set a digit on a rose so long as he lives and well he so may do and never be pained again. But banished beneath the bow of that slave ship he captains, he will think himself the free man, yet find himself the slave. Chained by the greater pain of never touching a rose again. Manacled by the madness of the shadow that is life devoid of her presence.
The tender may decide to keep the bush in the garden but distance himself from the rose. With gloves thick enough, he may shield himself from the sting of the thorn, and feel nothing of its bludgeoning bite; and well he so may do and never be pained again. But the gloves will take away more than just the feeling of the thorns. His defences will dull his senses, and his dumb hands numb to the telling of her tale, could maim her stem and spoil her beauty and shatter her blooming diadem; and he will pass the remainder of his mere existence feeling the greater pain of feeling nothing.
Again, the tender may decide to become a thorn remover, an exterminator of hurtful things; a righter of all wrongs. Plucking in great haste at the thorns, well he may remove that which makes him bleed, but not without bleeding more than ever he did before. Not without hurting the rose and tearing her stem and leaving less of her intact with each wrong righted. Until at last, he has bled out to death and she has died of brokenness, and the two lay buried alive in their grave of shame and tears.
As a last resort, he may covet the ease of tending the thornless rose, thinking this or that fate a utopia empty of care. He may fly in day dreams to a realm of fancy where the roses tend themselves and shed their thorns while blooming into ageless beauty.
But if he is a tender, no disavowal of roses will stay his hand. The thickest gloves will not beguile him. No moralizing thorn control will waste the tender’s heart. He is a tender, he must tend and will not covet some other fate. A tender he will always be; forever a rose is she…