Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

--William Wordsworth, "That Poem You Read in English 101"

Tulips are coming out now. Daffodil time is almost over.

I never saw a host of golden daffodils in a natural group, as Wordsworth described. I've only ever seen them in a horde like that when someone went to a lot of trouble planting a lot of bulbs.

The narcissus. as the daffodil is also known, has not relied on gardeners to survive, but is actually a flower that can spread on its own. Being a city kid in I wouldn't have thought enough about flowers to ever bother finding that out, but it's true. If I had thought about it, I'd have decided that eventually the flower just hocks up a bulb, which would be comical, but no. They replicate by seeds or bulbs quite naturally, and it's very complicated, at least for a non-biologist guy like me. Bulbs divide, which is faster than seed reproduction, so if the narcissus is in a rush it can skip the seed route. Nature is strange, even when it is beautiful.

But you note that the clonal method is not going to cause a new daffodil to erupt halfway across town. This is why in nature, daffodils like to travel in packs.

The reason I mention that is a memory that emerged from the depths as I saw this year's blossoms. When I was a kid we lived by a major thoroughfare, next to which there was nothing but an off road. But right by those, a daffodil would pop up every spring.

Why there? It was not close enough to the road to be a kind of memorial of a tragic accident; people didn't do that in those days, anyway. Maybe there was a seed dropped by a bird. Maybe it had been planted years before when people lived on that property, before their house was removed to build the road... and all that was left was the bulb they planted. I loved it because it had no business being there. We love things that turn up in places where they are unexpected, like wonderful restaurants in tiny towns or phone booths in the middle of nowhere.

For a few years I would wait for that daffodil, and before it could begin to wilt I would pick it and bring it to my mother. I think she enjoyed that -- she didn't get a lot of flowers. She always thanked me. She'd put it in a glass on our kitchen table.

One spring the daffodil did not come up. I thought I'd missed it; that some jerk had beaten me to my daffodil. But it didn't come up the next year either. Maybe an animal dug up the bulb, or maybe it just died. Nothing lives forever, although daffodil bulbs seem to be willing to take a crack at it.

The thing is, you seldom know when it's the last time for anything. The last day I drove my previous car I had no idea it was the end, but a session of hydroplaning saw to that. The last time I spoke to my oldest friend I was rushed and irritated and neither of us knew he had barely a month of life left. The day my mom died I didn't know it was that, either.

I take a lot in life for granted, but now I appreciate every daffodil.

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