TWO DAFFODIL BULBS,
BROWN AND SHRIVELLED
This winter, my friend Sally gave me two brown,
dead-lookingdaffodil bulbs. I haven't been much of
a gardener in this lifetime. Like physics and auto
mechanics, it's one of those things I "meant" to get into,
and never really did. So I wondered, "What will I do
with them?", as I looked at these two completely
dried-up pieces of useless matter.
I put them on my kitchen counter next to the
sink, thinking "I should plant them." And since I don't
have any deeply engrained horticultural habits or
paraphenalia, they just stayed there. I would come face to
face with them two or three times a day, while washing
dishes or placing things in the sink. I'd always feel
rather puzzled to see these "strangers" lieing there.
After about a month, a surge of energy started
coming to me..well, like a plant sprouting. It got a
little stronger each day. It was my real determination
to honor my friendship with Sally, itself a living thing,
and make an effort to honor the life that, supposedly,
lay latent in the bulbs.
One day, this urge had gathered sufficient momentum.
I went to Safeway and bought some potting soil and a
clay flower pot. The flower pot turned out to be too small,
but Barbara, it turned out, had a bigger one that she
said she'd gladly gave me.
The momentum of the project had begun. I brought the
larger pot home, opened the bag of potting soil, and
in my clumsy way--reminding myself of the way my dad, who
had never had a pet, had tried to feed our first dog when
it was running wildly around our downstairs--buried most of
the still dead-looking bulbs in the soil.
I may have been humoring Sally and Nature, but at least
I had done something. Secretly, though, I thought, "If they
weren't dead to start with, that month might lieing on my
kitchen counter probably killed them."
I planted the bulbs during the rainy season. Most
every day was cloudy. Every morning as I emerged from my
apartment, and every evening as I came home, I passed
this still dead-looking pot of dirt with two inert
brown things that looked like the ginger roots you eat
or make tea from, lieing there in it.
It was all..not very inspiring I didn't have a green
thumb like my grandpa had had, but, well, there was nothing
to lose if I tried and nothing came up. It wasn't the end of the
Then one day, after maybe another month.. I came
out and..well, you guessed it..a tiny, yellow-green
sprout was sticking out of one of the bulbs. A thrill ran
through my whole body.
That bulb grew quickly. Its brother or
sister continued in its stupor, and I thought, "Well,
maybe the first one had only been sleeping, but this one,
it seems, is dead!"
Me and my pessimism! After a couple of weeks, that
one came up too! It had quite a ways to catch up to the
other, but neither of the ugly brown things had been what
it had appeared. They had both concealed vibrant green life.
Both plants now grew and grew. I began to water
them. That helped! Previously, I had realized it was
the rainy season, and thought the plants were fine. My mind
hadn't registered that the pot was under the roof ledge!
The first-sprouter grew phenomenally, sending up
six or seven healthy, green fronds. The slower bulb
only sent up two or three, but it too was vibrant and
Then one day I noticed that the smaller of
the two plants had a bruise of some kind on the end of
one of its fronds. A little brown bruise. I thought,
"Oh, it's got some blight, that's why it's been slow!"
And then the big plant developed the same kind of
little bruise. I panicked a little. "These bulbs'
roots may be reaching the bottom of this pot. They may
be dieing. I need a plant doctor! We've come this far,
I don't want them to die now!"
I thought of taking them to Sally, who knows a lot
about plants. In fact, I did take them, once, but she
After a week of so of this new anxiety, I began to
suspect that these little brown marks might not be
bruises, after all! Day by day, it became clear that what
I was seeing was the flowers themselves gradually
developing out of the plain, green frond-ends, beginning
as "wounds" of some kind! Now they were getting ready
to burst forth with their trumpetings of Joy!
Yesterday I indeed did "give birth" to the first
of two lovely, brilliant daffodils! The two plants are
still very different in size, but both will have
healthy, gorgeous, Life-Singing flowers!
(written in early 2000)