The daffodils are in bloom, filling the flowerbeds and meadow and trimming the woods, like bonnets of pure sunshine. Such cheerful flowers. I love spring!
I started growing daffodils shortly after my husband and I first moved here, almost twenty years ago. I was a young teacher at the time, and Jolene, one of my eleventh-grade students, came by to help me with the planting. A heavy mist hung in the air, as we dug holes and plopped in bulbs, hundreds and hundreds of them.
Since then, the bulbs have spread, doubling, tripling, quadrupling underground. Every April is thicker with daffodils than the one before, more riddled with fragrant cups, more beautified by ruffled heads. I see them and remember that damp day of planting. And I fondly think of Jolene.
For some people, it isn’t just daffodil season. It’s also tulip and crocus season. I like those flowers, too, and have invested in many bulbs of both, but the squirrels, chipmunks, deer, or rabbits apparently like them as much as I do. They’ve gobbled up almost all of my tulips and crocuses. And though I’ve been lucky with some other spring-blooming bulbs, like snowdrops and hyacinths, others haven’t thrived. Glory-of-the-snow, for instance, a plant that will spread readily for some gardeners and deliver a carpet of ethereal blue, never produces more than a few measly flowers for me.
After living here for nearly two decades, I’ve learned what I can and can’t grow. The environment imposes limitations, and for the most part, I’ve accepted them. I don’t mess with deterrents like chicken wire or spray my beds with natural repellents, not anymore. I did a couple of times, early on. And at first, I also ignored the locals’ advice, when they warned me not to bother trying tulips. I guess I had to learn these limitations the hard way, expending time, money, and energy and suffering disappointments.
But daffodils! I have plenty: daffodils with multi-petaled centers, tiny daffodils that bloom in clusters up the stem, and giant daffodils with a heavy fragrance. Pink-cupped daffodils, green-cupped daffodils, peach-cupped daffodils. All gold. All white. They’re my April comfort and delight.
Writing and navigating the publishing industry can be like gardening. Certain activities are as doable as daffodil growing. We can inch along that novel, put something up on a blog, and return to an older work and revise it. When a short piece looks ready, we can submit it to journals. When a long piece holds promise, we can send it to agents or directly to publishing houses. With such tasks, we exercise control.
With so much else, however, we don’t. Too often, the publishing industry becomes a wilderness where the results of our efforts wither, disappear, get lost—or get found, chewed up, and spit out. This might seem like a condition common among emerging writers, but I’m sure very accomplished writers, even those enjoying fame and fortune, suffer setbacks. Nobody escapes the hungry critters of criticism and the ravages of rejection.
Given such disheartening prospects, plugging along in this field might look like a peculiar sort of masochism, a willful planting of tulips and a crazed commitment to crocuses in deer and chipmunk country. Or it would, if publishing were the flower. It’s not.
The writing is the flower. It grows in the safest place possible—in each of us with our curious minds, our tender hearts. Occasionally, somebody will admire that flower and pick it. More often than not, it will bloom undetected, like a secret. Like a wildflower in the woods. That makes the blossom no less beautiful. We can grow our word gardens, writing friends, as many as our imaginations allow. I wish you happy planting.