“Daffodils Are for Dreaming,” Ensign, Mar. 1972, 73
When as a child I began to want a little garden plot of my own, an elderly gardener in the neighborhood said to me, “Pick out one special flower to be your very own, and learn all you can about it. Then all your life you will have something more to learn.”
This didn’t make much sense to me, and I told him so. Surely it wouldn’t take that long—a lifetime—to learn about a flower. “It’s not easy to learn all there is to know about even one flower,” he chided me gently.
When I said I guessed I liked the yellow daffodil best, he gave me one large brown bulb and said it was a good choice, for “daffodils are for dreaming.”
Together we dug a hole in the ground, and I was surprised to find that the farther down we went, the more moist the ground was. “You see,” he said, “already you have learned something you didn’t know about the earth around you.”
We placed the bulb in the ground and put the dirt on top of it, patting it gently. Then we stood up, and he said, “Now, child, run out and play, and let God take care of the daffodil bulb.”
I was certain he was wrong to take this attitude, but he assured me that what I had to do about the bulb was to go away and leave it to the sun and the wind and the rain, the stars and the moon, through sunrise and daytime to sunset.
“Someday you will come out and see the first green shoot coming up through the ground, and you will know the daffodil has not been sleeping after all, but has been busy with its work.”
Happily I left him and went indoors to help my mother with the dishes, to play with my dolls, and occasionally to give a thought to the daffodil bulb in the garden. I found it was fun to dream about how pretty the flower would be when springtime came.
Never was there delight so great in any garden as when I discovered that the long-awaited green shoot had come up through the soil. Tall and slim like a pencil, its bud seemed to be the eraser; and now, many years later, I still think of the daffodil as the pencil with power to write the story of springtime and erase the last evidence of winter’s snow. Watching for that first bud took me outdoors where, when I looked up toward the sky, I saw an early robin in the barren tree; and when I looked down, I discovered how fast the weeds were growing. Thus began an interest in birds, and the knowledge that the soil must be kept free from new weeds.
When spring’s dream began to come true, it was startling to see how fast the daffodil bloom developed. One day it was a yellowish green swelling at the top of the long stem, the next day it was beginning to open, and by the third there was a blossom in all its golden beauty. The faint fragrance seemed to come from a distant country, bringing enchantment into my yard. What an agonizing decision it was for a child to choose whether to let the flower stay in the garden or to come inside to a vase!
How well I remember the happy moment when I presented the daffodil to my mother and watched her give it the place of prominence on the old dining room table around which we gathered for meals and remained to study or read. In that moment was born in me the love for flower arrangements. From that lone daffodil I learned ultimately that the purpose of such bouquets in our homes is “to heighten the joy of living,” as an instructor in a flower-arranging class later expressed it.
One daffodil leads to another, and the next year I had half a dozen bulbs to plant as a result of a birthday gift from a grandmother. With seven plants, counting the one left over from last year, which decided to bloom again, obviously I was wealthy in flowers and could afford to give away my first bouquet. It went to my schoolteacher, who lived in an apartment and did not have a piece of ground in which to plant flowers as I did. And so I took the first steps in learning the now popular word empathy, all because of a daffodil.
Little by little the garden grew, and I discovered through the colored pictures on the shiny pages of catalogs that there were many kinds of daffodils that could be purchased, if enough pennies, nickels, and quarters were saved. Some of the daffodils had white petals with yellow edges and centers, and still others were a deep orange in the middle. Could it be possible that new kinds of flowers could actually be made by gardeners working with the models that were already in the world? This seemed a miracle; and it still does, as I try out this year’s newest bulb and watch a pale pink shade emerge through the white, with varied ruffled edges.
Learning about new daffodils led to a knowledge of geography and ultimately to visiting gardens while traveling, whether in the southern states of America or on the green hillsides of England. Whether in travel or at home, there was always something new to learn from the daffodil, even in studying postage stamps on catalogs from Holland, where an order had been sent for bulbs.
One of the things I have discovered is that I have a special fondness for the first daffodil I ever grew, the stately King Alfred; something of its simplicity, and being just exactly what it is without variation, has found its way into my personal preferences in other matters, as well as into my philosophy about living. Whenever I see the daffodils coming into bloom, I remember that I can count on them to be daffodils; then I try to take a good inner look to see if I am indeed what I seem to be, and if my friends can count on my being myself, year after year, with each returning spring.
For the daffodils lead me to stop by the homes of friends, sometimes putting two or three blossoms wrapped in foil at the doorway of one who is away at work. There is never any need to leave a card, for by now all within my circle know that this is the flower I pursue. Indeed, it has become a hobby to collect china cups with daffodil flowers as designs, and it has taken a quarter of a century to find two dozen with different patterns. Somehow the daffodil has been bashful about leaving the garden and going into the china shops, but fortunately a few patterns now vie with the roses and violets and lilies of the valley.
Having a collection of china cups has led me to look for other items, and now I have several pieces of silver with daffodil carvings and a jeweled pin to wear on a suit. For the wall there is a plaque of molded daffodils. Another friend painted a nosegay of them as a birthday card, and that is now framed for my writing den.
Recently there came by airmail a letter from a friend in a distant state; inside was a piece of waxed paper, folded double, and pressed between it was the first daffodil from her garden, which she wanted to share with me. It rests now within my Bible as a bookmark.
Across miles and years that first daffodil bulb given me by the wise gardener has multiplied in blossoms of fact, friendship, understanding, compassion, and neighborliness. Much of what I know about happy living today has come from what I learned the day I entrusted the daffodil bulb to God’s care and went about my child’s work, remembering that daffodils are for dreaming.