The Book of the Bulb
[found on the water-stained back of a torn seed packet on the floor of a nursery shed]
. . . began with the bulb. The bulb lay beneath the earth, beneath the rich loam and thick clay. The bulb lay in the dark, and it was [content]. . . .
The soil parted; the mighty talons [of St. Azul?] pierced it. The bulb saw the sky, and the beak of St. Azul, and the throat. Again darkness enveloped the bulb.
The bulb left [the earth?] . . . [and] soared, as Saint Azul bore it through the heavens. The bulb spun with the winds and rose with the currents, and its contentment turned to joy, and in its joy . . . from its heart grew the plant.
The Hagiography of Saint Azul
[traditional liturgy; consensus version compiled from multiple sources]
1. Saint Azul lived in the east, where the tall pine trees rise at the base of mountains and the streams burble and chirp like downy-feathered hatchlings. He made his home in a loblolly whose roots drank from a stream fed by the spring of Saint Snargus, which all know is sacred.
2. In the trees that neighbored his there lived his seven clever sons and six sweet-voiced daughters, his twenty-nine bright-plumed grandsons and his forty-three swift granddaughters, and his great-grandchildren too numerous to count. In those trees lived also his consorts and his siblings, his parents and his cousins. Vast was the clan of Saint Azul.
3. Now one winter snow blanketed the land, and ice silenced the stream fed by the spring of Saint Snargus. Icicles hung from every branch of the loblolly pine, and frost swallowed each nut and seed.
4. The clan of Saint Azul was patient, for winter was not unknown and always passed quickly. But a second storm came, and a third, and the forest lay white as death. And the clan of Saint Azul hungered.
5. It was in these days that the bulb blossomed and the plant was born. Cradled in the stomach of Saint Azul, it knew only warmth and moisture. It did not know it grew out of season. It unfurled its leaves and stretched out its stem, seeking light.
6. Saint Azul opened his beak, and the plant sprang forth. He opened his beak wider, and the stem grew thicker, and leaf after leaf sprang free. Between the leaves grew buds, and the buds burst to produce flowers, and each flower opened to reveal a thousand seeds.
7. Overnight grew the plant of Saint Azul, and the clan of Saint Azul fed from its thousand flowers of thousand seeds, and they were sated. Each morning the plant put forth new flowers on stems that had been barren the night before, and each morning the clan fed again, until the snow melted and the forest was again green and brown beneath the trees.
8. And that was the first miracle of Saint Azul.
9. Now spring came, and the family of Saint Azul went forth to forage, and the plant went dormant. Saint Azul went forth as well, but he could not forage, because his stomach was full.
10. He found a shaded place beneath a beech tree, where the soil was rich with loam and leaves, and expelled the bulb. It saw his throat, and it saw his beak, and it saw at last the soft dark soil.
11. Saint Azul returned to his clan. He lived two more turns of the seasons, until his feathers were more gray than blue, and then he joined the forest floor.
11. When the bulb touched the soil, it split in three. One bulb took root, and one bulb was taken up by the great-grandson of Saint Azul, and one was washed away in the spring rains.
12. The rains took the third bulb to the stream, and the stream carried it south to the lowlands, where it came to rest on the banks beneath a tangle of smilax vines. The earth was clay beneath a thin strip of soil, but the bulb had nurtured in the stomach of Saint Azul, and it found the soil good. It took root.
13. The third bulb split, and split again, until the number of bulbs exceeded the clan of Saint Azul. The bulbs spread across the bank, and drank the water, and filled the soil, until even the smilax was driven away.
14. Now many years hence the gardener walked along the riverbank. She saw the profusion of bulbs growing from clay, their broad green leaves and violet-tinged petals, and she fell to her knees and proclaimed it a miracle.
15. This was the second miracle of Saint Azul.
16. With her trowel the gardener dug up two bulbs. One she planted in her garden, and one she brought to the oracle of gardens
17. He took it in vine-wrapped hands and with his green tongue told the tale of Saint Azul.
18. The gardener's bulb flourished and split, and to each of her friends she gave a bulb. With each bulb she gave the tale of Saint Azul, which she recalled faithfully. The tale spread, and prayers rose to Saint Azul.
The Bones of Saint Azul
[written on roll of bark paper found buried in place of a missing bulb]
There is a man at the arboretum of a certain House of Learning who keeps a small box in his tool chest, and in that box lies a silken cushion, and on that cushion sits the skull of a bird. He says it is the skull of Saint Azul, and he touches it each fall and asks it to see his bulbs through the winter. They always live.
There is a woman whose hands show streaks of paint beneath their thick patina of dirt, and around her neck she wears a bottle, and inside that bottle rattle tiny bones. She claims they are the vertebrae of Saint Azul, and she uses the bottle like a dowsing stick to find her bulbs each spring, before they sprout. It has never steered her wrong.
But the true bones of Saint Azul were never found. They lie beneath a profusion of greenery so thick a gardener could dig for a hundred days and never touch soil. So says the oracle of gardens, and I believe her.