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What the Daffodil?

Before I left for work this morning, I turned away when I caught a surprising splash of bright orange-yellow in the corners of my yard. I knew what it meant, but didn’t want to look. Last year, I watched them day after day. I willed them to spread their graceful long stems into arabesque, and don the season’s latest.

It’s been a hellish week, only two days in. The work day was long but not as unbearable as I thought it might be, after staying up way past my bedtime to get all my other work done. I logged about 1.2 hours on my sleep machine. As irony is iron clad, right around quitting time today, I had a fourth or fifth or sixth wind, and kept plugging along. The last colleague on my floor bid me good-night after transforming from stuffy Wall Street attire to a tight white t-shirt and jeans that crinkled in all the right places (“dinner date” was the quick explanation for the superhero-style switch). Seeing as this colleague is not my persuasion, not my partner, and notably older, the admiration was an innocent one … a fleeting thought, really, that I could stand to exercise more than I do, and there’s hope it would pay off. I kept at the grind till my phone rang moments later. It was my coworker, calling to tell me the elevators weren’t working and the ground floor was flooded with firefighters. I’m sure the words weren’t quite that, but that’s what I heard as I grabbed the items off my desk, mentally kicking myself for not wearing sensible (or even all that fashionable) shoes, and saw my rare burst of dedication go up in imagined flames. I got the to ground floor on the one elevator that was working, and there were about two firefighters for every several people. The lobby was mostly empty. Smart people had left to enjoy the rare weather.

After work, I went to the wine store to buy a celebratory bottle of something with a touch of fizz to celebrate finishing a brief in what has been a long painful litigation, and to (maybe?) celebrate this uncharacteristically balmy weather. The clerk in my favorite bottle store in Park Slope joked that he has no problem with global warming. “I’m thinking about spraying some aerosol cans in the air,” he said with a cajoled glee. I (road weary and fully obliterated by the abhorent hours I’ve been keeping), chimed in “in honor of the weather.” He corrected me, “to keep it coming.”

“Bring it on, global warming.”

I ha-ha’d, grabbed my bottles (I don’t go often, so I stocked up on two), and left. Walking down the block to my house, I felt like a bit part in the first twenty minutes of a seventies sci-fi made-for-tv movie. I couldn’t help but stare near slack jawed at the flowers in full bloom in the little plots of plants they put in a few years ago in front of the apartment complex at 40. By the time I hit 60, I had to stop and ask the Chinese man who was crouched on his feet and working furiously with his hands what it was he was planting. I’ve been beyond impressed with how various plants pop up in that well (but not fussily) manicured front yard, and are whisked away to some unknown outpost, while a vast variety of new ones quickly replace them throughout the growing season. He didn’t understand my question, or was too busy to engage. He worked with such intention, though I couldn’t determine its method. I wondered if there were some secret he had that I did not know but should want (e.g., get the plants in the ground quickly early in the season, lull and lollygag for warmer weather plantings). He did not pay serious attention to me until I asked him “too cold?,” and pointed to the plants in his hands, wondering whether there’s still the risk of a cold spell wiping them out. He pointed to the plants that were already in the ground, and have been there all year long, just waiting for new neighbors to join them. He pointed to a hosta-like plant with sturdier leaves and said, “No.” “These strong.” “Ooooh, okay,” I said as if I’d just learned something but wondered to myself what all he knew and was not saying. I carried on my breezy but slightly paranoid way.

Around 80, I almost stopped dead in my tracks. The tree that usually does not show its bloom till mid April (at an earliest) had magically transformed in the hours I sat behind my cold and sturdy desk, face to face with the eight hour glow of my screen, from a naked branched lady in a dressing room, to a gently clad bride, waiting for the first dance. So young. These things can destroy them, you know (the whispers of the sturdy old gals down at 60 floated our way).

Then I really caught myself in the midst of this bad movie, shook it off, skipped on down to my own yard, knowing what I had to face. There they were, just as I’d left them this morning, but a touch taller, more definite, more mature, more determined that Mother Nature had their dance card. The little lady daffodils, so eager to make their long awaited entrance, could wait no more.

Kids these days. They don’t know that it pays to be fashionably late.

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2 responses to “What the Daffodil?

  1. Ralph ⋅

    Nice observations. Almost nobody in my immediate surroundings seems to plant, at least not in the ground. I have a few bulbs in a flower pot last year that got dug up and partially eaten. They survived the winter outside and are growing already. One section of the yard has been growing bulbs since I moved here with little to no attention aside from occasional watering.

    I forget the exact date, but the last frost date is around the end of this month. I still don’t trust the weather to stay warm, it has shown it can change radically in a day or two. For now I have just been moving containers out for the sun and back in at night. I know the saying goes “It’s not nice to fool mother nature”, but lately it’s been fooling us!

  2. Ralph ⋅

    I found a daffodil and crocus flower open yesterday. They may not produce food but they are trouble free once planted. Mine have been coming back maybe 20 years all by themselves. Aside from some water they just do their own thing, and when they’re finished growing for the year I just run over the stalks with the lawnmower to clean up the area.

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