Fleur 2020-01 - Crocus

And the Winners are ....​

Judging submissions to Zen Garden’s “Crocus Story Contest” was like judging crocuses themselves. How to rank the yellow, purple, and white? It was a maddening, hair-splitting business. The criteria, fittingly enough, wound up becoming floral. The blush of language trumped construction, insight, and even feeling. On this basis, first prize went to “January’s Snow Moon,” which includes the contest’s loveliest language:

I opened the curtain on an ice-white moon and shadows sharp as a butcher’s blade. A red fox trotted across the yard, his full-moon shadow etched on snow. He stopped, lifted his nose. Somewhere he sensed a beating heart. He turned and followed its warm-blooded scent, rich on the frozen air.  […]

Outside under the great white moon Pilgrim Death traveled across the snow, gathering in the starved and weary, the fragile beings of blood and bone. […]

In my dream a crocus, petalled chalice, parts the snow.

This last line—the story’s closing line—might satisfy Tennyson. It’s the best line of the contest.

“January’s Snow Moon” is mere silhouette. The narrator, presumably a young woman, wakes on a snowy night; she hears her grandfather in the kitchen “calling up his garden, imagining seeds fattening to blooms”; she ponders the funereal beauty of the scene; she returns to sleep and the dream of flowers. I find the sleepless grandfather fingering his bag of seeds implausible as detail and contrived as metaphor, but the story’s poetry silences my quibble. In setting and mood, the story reminds me of Coleridge’s poem “Frost at Midnight.”   

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings…

There are other excellent stories. “Bosanska Krajina”—about surviving a pitiless Bosnian winter—likewise ends on a beautiful note:

Ivan fell to his knees, turned to his Wife and Son and uttered the words, “Hvala Vam, Crocus Tommasinianus.”

The phrase means “thank you,” but it feels like magical incantation. “The Time after the Snowdrops and before the Daffodils”—matter of fact and quietly moving—is the contest’s closest approach to professional prose. “White Garden” describes a lost mountaineer’s final moments, rising to the challenge of narrating the strange subjectivity of death itself. “Most Alive in the Dead of Night”—written by a middle school student—deserves a prize for precocity. It’s genuinely tight, as the tale itself recognizes:

She was forty, Mum. Car accident. Funeral. Sudden shock. That’s all I’m going to say about her death. Don’t want to sound sentimental.

A middle-schooler who doesn’t waste or wallow is off to the races. This writer already grasps the compression that Nabokov so humorously deploys in Lolita. Says Humbert Humbert:

My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.

Congratulations to all chroniclers of the crocus. I enjoyed my stroll through your garden.

~Dr. David A. Ross

Congratulations to our three Public Voting winners!  It was fun watching the voting counts increase every day.  It was a very close race between the top winners!
Learn more about the contest which inspired these wonderful stories:


Fleur 2020-01 Crocus

Plum blossoms in bloom,
Unexpected reunion –
Misty breaths linger.
Our next Fleur contest features a wonderful flower that has been the subject of haiku and legend for many centuries.  Once again, our prompt creator is Zantal Siah.

Fleur 2020-02 – Plum Blossom

Our judge for this contest will be Dr. Regina Higgins, writer, editor, and published author, who will select the Grand Prize Winner.  There will also be a public voting segment.  Click on the link above to learn more or to enter the contest.

Voting Countdown:

We’re delighted to present the shortlisted stories from our “Crocus” contest.  Congratulations to everyone who entered – there were so many truly wonderful stories, it was hard to narrow down the list!   We hope you’ll read each one and then tell your friends and family about ZenGarden.club and all our talented writers! 
Total entries:  177
Total shortlisted:  55
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