Daffodil field

When A (not her real initial) and I went to the Tower Hill Botanic Garden back in October to see Patrick Dougherty’s stickwork installation The Wild Rumpus, we didn’t know more than 25,000 daffodil bulbs were quietly sleeping beneath a grassy field we passed along the way. Yesterday, that field of daffodils was blooming, and the flowers were buzzing with families, photographers, and parents posing their babies for pictures.

Pigsqueak bergenia

Spring is a season of surprises. Throughout the long months of winter, the earth lies bare and barren, completely devoid of the lushness of summer. It’s easy to think the earth is dead or depleted, Persephone descended to the Underworld forevermore.

But the earth never tires, nor does she forget. When the days lengthen and the soft rains come, something underground starts to stir. Out of barren dirt, green shoots appear, then leaves, buds, and flowers. In Zen, we say that when spring comes, the grass grows by itself, and that truism applies to daffodils as well. When spring comes, the flowers open by themselves.

Something green and growing

Temperatures stayed above freezing for much of last week, so the snow pack is gradually shrinking, with patches of bare ground appearing on the edges. We saw these brave perennials starting to sprout from a sheltered spot alongside a building in Waltham yesterday…but in our yard here in Newton, the snow is still knee-deep, with an additional inch or two of fresh snow (enough for Boston to break its record for the snowiest season on record) falling last night.

Artificial flowers in snow bank

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Since it will be weeks, at least, until most of us see tulips or daffodils blooming in our still-buried gardens, some folks are taking matters in their own hands, sticking cut or even artificial flowers in the snow banks in front of their houses: a welcome spot of color. When you can’t enjoy the real thing, a reasonable facsimile will have to do.

Cut daffodils in snow bank

Shy daffodil

It hasn’t been raining constantly in New England this past week or so; it just feels that way. On Sunday afternoon in Newton, J and I took a short walk around the neighborhood, on the lookout for blooming daffodils, sprouting peonies, and other signs of spring. Already in late afternoon, the sky was darkening with the gathering clouds of the latest rainstorm, which started on Sunday night and has continued until today.

Ruffled

This morning in Keene, it was gray but not raining when I walked Reggie, and it felt like an unheard of luxury to walk without a raincoat or umbrella. The soil was still saturated, with mud and standing water everywhere, and various neighbors’ sump-pumps still gushed chugging rivers out of basements. But I didn’t have to change out of rain-bedraggled jeans (or try–unsuccessfully–to towel off a soggy, wriggly dog) when I got home: a small victory. By by dinner time, though, the rain returned, and as I type these words, I can’t tell whether the pattering I hear outside my window is falling rain or dripping eaves.

Tomorrow is April, and I tell myself that spring and sunshine will be here soon enough…but not yet. In the meantime, I solace myself with the memory of Sunday daffodils glowing with their own cellular warmth, a sight stolen between raindrops.