Like a fanfare, daffodils herald the spring, new joy and cheerfulness in our lives. They shout for joy! They remind us that we are stronger together. If someone is fighting depression this is a good flower to show them to encourage them to share their feelings. This was such an apt flower to have been flowering just before we began our lockdown.
Many of us can cite ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ by Wordsworth. In the early 1800s he wrote about how he came across a ‘host of golden daffodils’ and how whenever he thought of them it relieved his sadness. Shakespeare mentioned daffodils in The Winter’s Tale about 200 years earlier. He would have seen daffodils in Britain at that time as they had been introduced from Southern Europe. Being bulbs, they were simple to transport. Just like the virus, they travelled easily.
What does the daffodil’s name mean?
The daffodil’s horticultural name is Narcissus and it gives us clues to its’ dangerous properties. In Greek mythology Narcissus was a beautiful youth, who rejected the love of the nymph Echo. He was punished by being condemned to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, pine away and die there. A daffodil grew in his place.
Narcissus is based on the word narcotic, a mind-altering state. Indeed, daffodils were said to be used to induce sleep in ancient medicine. But beware! The Greek word ‘narkissos’ not only means drowsiness or sleep it also means numbness. Applied to an open wound it affected the nervous system and brought on death. The bulbs, if digested, are certainly poisonous.
This time of Coronavirus has forced each of us to dig deep, to face our fears, live in isolation and deal with our own mortality. Just like Narcissus who was powerless and alone by the pool, we fear contagion and of being separated from our loved ones at their time of greatest need.
The joy of the daffodil flower
So many of us are glad to see the daffodil heralding the spring. It belongs to the ‘Amaryllidacaea’ family of plants. Amarysso translated from the Greek means to sparkle and twinkle. These are both words that Wordsworth used in his poem to describe the dancing flowers that gave him such pleasure! Daffodils are most effective with their bright, sunny colour, dancing heads and trumpets. Their strength is in numbers and impact.
Daffodils remind us that we are stronger together
The daffodil flower, despite growing out of a poisonous bulb, is full of positivity. In the same way there have been silver linings which have come out of a lethal virus. We have been reminded that we are stronger together. We clap in the streets every Thursday to thank our NHS. We shop for our neighbours. We talk on the phone or video call family and friends far away. We have taken time away from frenetic lives and work to reconnect with nature and go for family walks and bike rides. We have come to realise the value of the natural world on our health and well being.
Who knows what the situation will be like by next March when the daffodils nod their heads again? Let’s hope that, if nothing else, we will have learned that, just like the daffodils, we are better when we work together and we can have absorbed some of the daffodils’ joy, colour and community spirit.
I made a video about daffodils the day before lockdown. Just about every thing that could break down did break down, so I am sorry about the quality of the sound. However in true “make do and mend” style I have decided to go ahead and post it on Youtube. I hope you like it anyway.
Please let me know your thoughts about the daffodils and how you are coping in these difficult times in the comments. Best wishes. Stay safe. Ruth x