Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Promise of Spring

It was a cold gray day amidst a wet cold month as Danielle, Gabrielle, and I sat out on the curb in front of our house when I noticed tough green daffodil leaves lancing up through the mulch.  I pointed it out to Danielle who immediately went in to investigate.

This seemingly insignificant discovery did wonders for my mood.  Those robust shoots reminded me that the cold and grey would soon give way to warmth and light.  They are every bit as reliable as the winter solstice, and maybe a bit more so than a certain rodent with teeth as long as his name.

Daffodils, also called narcissus, originated in Southern Europe as well as parts of China, Japan and Morocco.  There are about 50 different species that are categorized in twelve groups, based on look.  In favorable conditions, (like ours) the bulbs may outlive the person who planted them.  These are no delicate tulip bulbs that need to be replanted every few years.  Nor do they need much in the way of pest and disease control as they are generally free of both.  (Screw you Monsanto.)  They are seemingly happy wherever they are plugged into the ground and will obligingly clone themselves by way of growing clusters of bulbs which can be dug up and divided, then stored in a shed for a few years before being distributed to neighbors; as I am wont to do on occasion.   They will also propagate in the usual flower fashion of pollination by insect and wind, but the resulting seeds will take a long five years to produce a flower after germination.

On many a stroll down the roads of Oysterville, Washington I have noticed daffodils growing amidst the forest.  Often looking closer there's evidence of a tumbledown cottage or perhaps only the remains of a foundation, almost fully claimed by the forest.  The daffodils that once grew in a flower box or along a picket fence are all that remains of a home.  Whenever I see this my imagination erases the tangle of brush and conjures up sepia toned images of a small cottage with a trim lawn and perhaps a tire swing hanging from a thick branch of a maple tree in the front yard.  Perhaps some children playing while the adults relax on a rocker on the front porch or standing at the gate while visiting with some passersby.

What were we talking about again? Oh yes, daffodils.

Daffodils have been one of my favorite flowers for as long as I can remember.  I've always been an outdoor kind of girl so those short soggy days spent mostly indoors are long ones for me.  I have vivid memories of being outside in shorts and tee-shirt (in kid protest of the enduring cold) while climbing our maple tree and beneath the tree in a patch of hard dirt grew the loveliest patch of daffodils, which I'd lay on a low hanging branch to admire.  It still makes me smile.  I've always imagined their beauty to be a gift to others, not selfish vanity like the Narcissus of Greek mythology.

Daffodils, being so common and nearly weed-like in robustness, I assumed my particular fondness for this flower was rare.  However, I couldn't have been more wrong.  Since thinking about writing this article, I've noticed each of my neighbors remarking on the daffodil leaves and overheard many a conversation of strangers whose subject was the very thing.   It seems as though the daffodils hold the same promise for everyone.  The Chinese believe that if the daffodils bloom before the Chinese New Year there will be extra wealth and good fortune and although I couldn't find verification of this for 2012 on the vastness of that which is Google, I do believe that they did, and that the good luck transcends the borders of China.

For further daffodil reading:

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