As I woke up to bunches of daffodils swaying cheerfully outside my window, my heart leaped with joy!! Although tiny crocuses are the first to give a whiff of the spring season; for me the Daffodils are the real messengers announcing the arrival of spring. So last week when I noticed the first daffodil buds showing cracks of yellow on their tips I was overcome with that very familiar and much awaited excitement they always stir within me, year after year after year!
When I first came to the US, I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive. I grew up where we had only three seasons — monsoon, winter and summer. So I always wondered what will the season so romanticized in English literature actually be like. My first introduction to spring was a black and white sketch of a little boy staring outside his window with a poem titled Spring by an Anonymous poet.
Spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming through,
Pansies, Lilies & Daffodils are coming too!
This was third grade. Then in fourth grade we had the Daffodils by William Wordsworth which soon became one of my most favorite poems. I can still recite it after 40 and some years…
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.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company
I gazed and gazed but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
Back then I could never experience the joy of fields with endless golden daffodils so beautifully painted by Wordsworth. Yet I kept imagining it for years. There was something about those lines that caught my imagination and every single time I read it, it stirred within me emotions of pure joy and excitement. For years it has also given me that soothing feeling of peace and fulfillment that one is overcome with on seeing the abundance of nature. It soon became one of my “happy places” that we all have and like to occasionally retire to. (No doubt this particular happy place was inspired sub consciously by what the poet says in the last stanza). Naturally Daffodils were my top priority when I moved to the US!
Tulips were also on top of my list because I had first seen tulips in the 80s Bollywood film Silsila. I still recall my mother saying excitedly that we have to watch this movie because it has scenes shot in the tulip fields of Holland! I was in 5th grade and had never heard the name nor seen a picture of this flower but it sounded quite exciting. Back then we lived in an age sans the information super highway. TV channels were also minimal and we did not even have a TV Tower in my home town to receive television coverage. Books were plenty but one couldn’t just instantly flip through pages and get precise answers to any and all questions like we can now get by simply “Googling” with our fingertips! Much was left to our imagination. My Dad though, the avid gardener that he was, occasionally managed (God knows how) to bring home some gardening books with lovely colorful pictures. But they were limited to tropical gardens. So the build up to “Spring” was quite high and it did not disappoint me!! I still recall driving down to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn Oregon in my first spring… it was at once mesmerizing and exhilarating!!
Today after almost three decades I still get as much excited as I did in my first spring. However after living through the dreary long winters, there is also an appreciation that I neither expected nor imagined. It makes one realize the enthusiasm poets get in romanticizing spring and justifies it to the unromantic. (Similarly after moving to the rainy Pacific Northwest I quickly understood why all English writers and their characters invariably start or end conversations with the weather!) Arriving on the back of a long, dark and cold winter, Spring not only “springs” life back but it also brings the joy of anticipation of the soon to follow warm summer evenings and the joys of gardening to gardeners.
For the last decade or so every time I see the first tulips bloom I am also invariably reminded of a story which brings a sadness and a solace to my heart. Sadness to be reminded of a lost little Dutch girl during the Nazi occupation of Holland. I can’t help imagining her walking around the cold country side, lonely, scared, ragged and malnourished; fighting for survival. Missing her family and desperate for food. Any food. And then comes the solace as I imagine her watching critters digging for bulbs and realizing that the Dutch countryside is full of bulbs!! She starts digging frantically with her weak hands and for the next several days she survives on spring bulbs! This was the first hand account of Anneke Bloomfield, a Holocaust survivor. I was very fortunate to meet her at a local Holocaust Remembrance event that I once attended. She was a contemporary of Anne Frank and fortunate enough to survive the war and narrate her story in person! In fact she even agreed and later shared her experiences at my daughter’s school when her class was reading Anne Frank’s diary. And since then, I can’t help saying a silent thank you to these bulbs for not just bringing life back in the fields but actually saving a child’s life. I used to always look at tulips as a thing of beauty and joy but who would have imagined anything like this …?
This year Spring seems extra special in many ways. It marks the one year anniversary of the Covid-19 outbreak and resulting pandemic lock down in most parts of the world and the last time my children attended school! The world now has vaccines and vaccination drives are already under way. Agreed the pace and availability is unfair but we finally know there is light at the end of this very long and tragic tunnel…
This spring of 2021 is not only beckoning brighter, warmer and longer days but it is also bringing new hopes that are beyond normal years. A hope that we are going to have our lives back on track very soon! Perhaps a new normal but nevertheless a normal!! A spring that has a President who cares and gives hope as he makes efforts to help fix our lives. A hope that we are soon going to be stepping out of social media and stepping into real society! A hope that this spring people can get back to offices again, children can be their carefree selves again, shopping can be fun again, a get together need not be on Zoom again and music concerts can be in person again! A hope that in this spring or by summer we might start dining at restaurants again and finally have a real hair dresser give us haircuts again!
So as I enjoy my daffodils and await my tulips to bloom, my smile might still be hidden behind my mask but there is a twinkle in my eye, a hope in my heart and a flight in my step!!
And after wandering sadly through a pandemic year … my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the Daffodils…!!!