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The Daffodil Dance

If only the earth will feed us,
If only the wind be kind,
We blossom for those who need us,
The stragglers left behind…
—From Roadside Flowers poem
by Bliss Carman

Those yellow flowers blooming in waves along the roadsides of Kentucky this time of year are known by several names—March flowers, March lilies, Easter flowers, jonquils, daffodils, narcissus, and even buttercups.

Some of the names are technically incorrect, I know, including buttercups, which is what my family always called them. But so far there is no law against calling them whatever we like.

On a lonesome green knoll in a grove of black locusts near the heart of Kentucky, a multitude of yellow blossoms will soon begin their gentle dance into spring with no one there to see them. These flowers are all that remain to mark the spot my family once called home. We moved to another location on the farm, a half-mile away, when I was a toddler, and the old homeplace on the creek road is now barely a wisp of memory.

Virtually nothing is left there save the March flowers, which have bloomed in profusion every year despite repeated assaults by bulldozers, late freezes, droughts, and flooding.

The house, barn, and outbuildings, the orchard and its old-fashioned speckled apples that we once shook from the trees, and remnants of the historic gristmill that stood along the nearby creek, are all gone without a trace.

Yet these fragile yellow flowers greet the first breath of spring each year as though my family is still there, waiting to pick them for Sunday bouquets, or hide Easter eggs among them for small hands to gather.

If you are thinking just now of the March flowers you have known, they may be calling you back to a place long ago and far away, beside a path or beyond a garden gate.

You may remember when, as a child, you discovered that by adding a bit of Easter egg coloring to the water of a vase holding jonquils, the flowers would absorb a thread of the color into the rims of their trumpets and petals, giving them a delicate red, blue, or green outline.

Most of us in those days were blissfully unaware of the horticulturists’ warning that daffodil sap has toxic properties, is dangerous if ingested, and may cause skin irritations and itching if handled without gloves. Only recently did I learn this information on a computer—which thankfully had not been invented when I was a kid, and which often leaves me stranded these days beside life’s cyber highway.

Just take it from one of the stragglers who’s been left behind: if you’ve never stood knee-deep in memories and daffodils on a warm, soft day in March, you have missed a true moment of solitude, and maybe a rare chance for your soul to go dancing with spring.

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