Jefferson Weaver • Daffodils and Dandelion Dust
My little buddy came running down the driveway with a handful of hope.
“I picked these for you,” she almost yelled, thrusting the daffodils, jessamine and dandelion blooms into my hands, just before racing off to pick some more.
I had brought her a pair of fairy bells earlier; my floral taxonomy is generally confined to things that one can and cannot eat, so I must admit I don’t know the real name of the little white bell shaped flowers that flank my gate, fighting for space with the jonquils and daffodils. They might be paperwhites, but all I know is that little girls like them. I’m not a snob if a flower makes someone happy.
The jonquils and daffodils are my favorites; they don’t quit, and they are the first to bloom as February’s misery turns to March’s muddy mirth. I’ve seen daffodils covered in ice, and jonquils blooming through the snow. I’ve seen daffodils survive a forest fire that blackened everything around them, then bloom a second time for the season, as if they were cheerleaders rallying their disheartened team. They are the definition of resilience, as much as I have come to despise that word when it comes out of the mouths of politicians.
A year after Hurricane Florence, an odd errand sent me downstream on a lazy river that had become a destructive torrent during the storm. Above and in a sharp dogleg curve, there were riots of daffodils on the banks, washed down from a ruined home upstream. The flowers lost their homes, too, but they didn’t quit— they just set up housekeeping elsewhere, with a vengeance.
I have shared too often about a place I once called home that was almost carpeted with the first soldiers of spring. The home was built by “Uncle John,” an ever-practical farmer who plowed his late wife’s flower beds into submission, only to see the entire yard sprout yellow and white blossoms the next year. He once again hitched up the disk to his tricycle-wheeled tractor, and dug down deep. The flowers returned, and indeed expanded their territory. He finally gave up.
I have never been one to look on dandelions as weeds, although I am not going to be critical of folks who put their hearts and souls into manicured lawns. Dandelions are tough, too— maybe not as tough as the average jonquil, but they’re stalwart. In addition to being pretty, they’re tasty. I sometimes find myself channeling some of my desperately hungry ancestors when the dandelions appear. Unlike my relatives who barely survived winters at Jamestown, I can get green vegetables from the grocery store, but I truly like the tangy taste of a dandelion green or ten on a day when spring is more an inevitability than a far off dream.
My little buddy plucked a dozen or two dandelions the other day, and not just the yellow blooms. She harvested a quart, if not quite a bushel, of dandelions that had shifted from yellow flowers to white seed spreaders. I thought she wanted to blow the delicate seeds so they would fly, but instead she showered me with what she called dandelion dust. I was still brushing them from my beard in the morning, but I didn’t mind. She informed me that they are magic, that without dandelion dust, the other flowers might not bloom, so who am I to argue with a six year old?
The immortal irises beside my driveway are deciding whether or not to chance the early whispers of spring. I hope they hold off a bit, just in case we have a surprise freeze.
One or two of the dogwoods along the rail bed have already thrown caution to the wind; they’re sheltered from the worst weather, and they benefit from the canal and the fertilized field a few feet away. I first noticed them the other evening, as the late winter sunset colored the sky for the cattle merchants heading for their roosts in the swamp. The blooms were bright spots on a wall of tired green, brown and gray hardwoods, serious trees that are still deep in their long winter’s nap.
I will never be one for nurturing flowers, but I look forward to their reappearance each year. Much as I love winter, I rejoice when I see those first buds turning into blooms.
The first flowers of spring mean the season of rebirth is upon us, the time of baby goats and fuzzy goslings and fluffy chicks under nervous hens. The flowers mean the mud will soon be turned into rich earth that will produce grass for my stock, vegetables for the humans, and worms for fishing.
The iris and rose of Sharon will compete with the old azaleas and the morning glories that survive our ever-hungry goats.
My little buddy may have something — she says you can’t have spring if you don’t scatter some dandelion dust. My daffodils, fairy bells and jonquils might just agree.