Monday, March 21, 2011

In Praise of Daffodils

I wander’d 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
[And] 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.

Thus, William Wordsworth. When I first met Will, I was a junior in English at UCLA and I fell totally in love with his poetry. My personal bucket list includes a trip to England's Lake Country, to walk where he walked and, if I'm lucky, to see the clouds of daffodils that so moved him.
Once upon a time, part of my Shabbat preparation was to stop at a local market and pick up a bunch of flowers for my table. Whatever the weather, I loved to see the flowers brighten up my dining room. The challenge each week was to choose which vase I would use: the pretty blue one my future daughter in law gave me for Hanukkah one year? The green one that had held flowers from a dear friend? A glass one I'd picked up while trolling through an antique shop on one of my vacations? Choosing just the right vase was a part of my Friday preparation that was pure delight.
I almost never bought daffodils. I seldom saw them for sale. There were astromeria, that I dearly loved, because they lasted forever. There were lilies, tulips in season, everything but daffies. But I didn't care, because I had a patch of daffies in my back yard. They bloomed riotously every spring, and what I loved about them was their absolute joy at having blossomed. "Look at us," they seemed to yell from the ground. "We're here, we're happy, and our sole purpose is to make you happy." OK that's a little egocentric, I suppose, but they never failed to make me happy. They just kept blooming, long after I'd have thought they would be dead, and you could almost sense their eagerness to keep their beautiful golden heads straight up, proud of their role in my life.
In the years since I left that house and that community, I've missed having daffodils around. And with my budget barely leaving room for food and gas, I've given up on fresh flowers every Friday. It's a shame, because how beautiful the table would look with fresh blooms, but with my income reduced and all my vases in storage, what's the point? My Friday night table looks so different anyway - no special kiddush cup (but a nice wine glass), traveling candle holders instead of my mother's candlesticks...not having flowers seems to make sense.
Then I went to Trader Joe's last week, and to my delight they were selling little bunches of daffodils. You couldn't even see the blossoms because they hadn't opened, and a bunch could be had for a mere $1.99. That I could afford.
The vase? Don't be shocked when I tell you I've saved the blue holder from the 7 day candle I lit when my Aunt Gert died a few years ago. It's been in a box, waiting for use, and I dug it out on Friday, filled it with water, and immersed the cut ends of my daffodils-in-waiting into the vase.
It's taken a few days. But as I sit here, I can take absolutely mind-expanding delight in looking at a bunch of daffodils, fully open, smiling at me and enjoying the knowledge that they are bringing me joy.
Trader Joe's probably won't have those daffies all the time. Too bad. I love looking at them. I love the sunshine they bring into my life, especially when it's pouring outside. I love their exuberance.
Will loved to walk on the hills of the Lake Country and watch the waves of daffodils bobbing in the breeze. I used to love to look out my window and watch my daffies nodding in the New Jersey sunshine. What a gift to be able to enjoy my little handful of daffies now, for as long as they can keep themselves alive.