When I began my first blog a decade ago, it was titled Dancing with the Daffodils, in honor of my grandmother. She left this earth on my birthday in 2009 when she was 103. I called her Mu Lou – a child’s pronunciation of Mother Louise.
Mu Lou taught me to love grits and Wordsworth – all in the same breath. There’s nothing quite like a strong southern woman. Independence and charm, sass and grace, steel and velvet. She lived in southern Alabama and for the last years of her life, I was close enough to visit often. She was easily delighted – and most often with flowers, music and poetry. Louise Rushing graduated from Montevallo College (now the University of Montevallo) in 1927 and taught English for many years. Among her many accomplishments was the ability to recite poetry. Most impressive at any age, but at 100, it was downright remarkable. One of her favorites was “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
…For oft, when on my couch I lie,
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude:
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
This is why I dance with daffodils. It is in my genes. I inherited Lou Lou’s happy heart and I am so grateful.
If you have a little reading time, there’s another story that makes me think of my mom. She is surely Mu Lou’s child in that she has a joyful sense of wonder and a deep appreciation of beauty. If you’re short on time, the point of the story is,”When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.”
The Daffodil Principle
“Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, “Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over.” I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. “I will come next Tuesday, ” I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call.
Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn’s house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren, I said, “Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!”
My daughter smiled calmly and said, “We drive in this all the time, Mother.” “Well, you won’t get me back on the road until it clears, and then I’m heading for home!” I assured her. “I was hoping you’d take me over to the garage to pick up my car.” “How far will we have to drive?” “Just a few blocks,” Carolyn said. “I’ll drive. I’m used to this.” After several minutes, I had to ask, “Where are we going? This isn’t the way to the garage!” “We’re going to my garage the long way,” Carolyn smiled, “by way of the daffodils.” “Carolyn,” I said sternly, “please turn around.” “It’s all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience.”
After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand-lettered sign that read, “Daffodil Garden.” We got out of the car and each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped.
Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns-great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.
There were five acres of flowers. “But who has done this?” I asked Carolyn. “It’s just one woman,” Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well kept A frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline.
The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and very little brain.”The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”
There it was, The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun – one bulb at a time – to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world. This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable (indescribable) magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.
The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time – often just one baby-step at a time – and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.
“It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!” My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way.” Start tomorrow,” she said. It’s so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, “How can I put this to use today?” ” – Credit to Jeroldeen Edwards