Field of Daffodils

How many of you hear the word, “daffodil” and spontaneously start reciting, “I wandered lonely as a cloud …” ?  

If you went to school in the UK likely you studied this poem and possibly were forced to memorize sections of it or at least have to read it aloud.  Here in the states it’s one of the poems they’d make you read in grade school.  When I was in grade school they made me memorize a poem that featured a guy named Henry – I can’t remember the poem, the title or the author.  Likely it was due to the trauma (see traumatic amnesia) of having to memorize it and then listen to 25 other eleven year-olds repeat it all morning while our teacher corrected all our mistakes.

Daffodils are the exact opposite of that experience – restful, beautiful and filled with symbolism.     Most of us have seen the yellow flowers that bloom in early spring. I’d venture to say that many of us have them in our gardens.  Daffodils are of the genus narcissus which includes jonquils and cyclamens and something like 150 other species.  The color range of these flowers generally include yellow or white flowers sometimes with orange highlights.

At this point some of you are wondering why I’m writing about daffodils. Well, it’s a challenge.  A few months ago the writing group decided that we should mix things up a bit and instead of one prompt for the whole group we would each draw a different word or phase from a basket.  The prompts put into the basket were written by the members of the group.  Some of the prompts were good, some not so good and some just plan odd like, “field of daffodils.” At the least I wasn’t the person who drew, “when I die,” as a prompt. Sorry Heather.

I’m not much of a gardener so I started by doing some research and discovered that daffodils or narcissus have been around for a very long time.  Being a writer I was interested in the origin of the words and found that narcissus actually derives from myth of Narcissus.  Having studied English literature, I am well versed in Greek myth … 

The short version of the story goes like this: There was a hunter named Narcissus who was known for his beauty.  While he was out hunting, he sees his reflection in a pool of water and stares at it until he dies.  Once dead, a flower sprouts which is called Narcissus.  There are many versions of this, some involving a sister, a nymph, a lover, and one involving another beautiful male youth. Most of these are jilted lovers who get revenge by showing Narcissus himself in the pool. Some of these get quite racy.  In general the moral of the tale is that Narcissus fell in love with himself and was destroyed by that.

Some of you read ahead and now know where we get the personality disorder, narcissistic from.  Also, narcissus (the plant) have been used as a medicine for thousands of years.  It even has a link to the word narcotic – as in intoxicated.  I should point out at this point that narcissus does produce an alkaloid that is poisonous and as a result you shouldn’t eat too many daffodils – especially their bulbs as you could die.

Well, maybe not like Narcissus, but you’d have a really bad day.

Interestingly and despite the gloomy origin of the word narcissus (let me tell you that is a difficult word to type repeatedly), daffodils and narcissus generally have come to symbolize:

  • Rebirth 
  • New beginnings
  • March’s birth flower
  • 10th wedding anniversary
  • Hope
  • Resilience
  • The national flower of Wales as it blooms around March 1st and St. David’s day
  • In some parts of the world it’s thought to be an aphrodisiac and a cure for baldness

All much different than poor Narcissus dying beside a pool and turning into a flower.

Which brings me back to Wordsworth and his much memorized and studied poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”  Wordsworth adds new meaning to the Daffodil by turning into a visual feast that fills the speaker of the poem with delight, peace, simple pleasure and a general sense of happiness.  This now classic poem was inspired by a walk Wordsworth had in the Lake District in 1802 where he encountered lots and lots of daffodils.  The original poem was written in 1804, first published in 1807 and later revised in 1815.  And I thought it took me a long time to write a poem.

Well, at least he got his published …

Mostly when I think of the phrase, “Field of Daffodils,” I think of my mother.  She lived in Stockton California for many years and in the spring she would often drive to the Sierra foothills to visit Daffodil Hill.  This is actually a ranch near the town of Volcano owned by the McLaughlin family since 1887.  They took their passion for daffodils to the extreme and over the more than a century there, have planted 300,000 bulbs and the display is stunning.  My mother loved it and returned many times.  The display is short lived and unpredictable about when it exactly starts so she’d have to call their answering machine every few days to find out when the ranch would open its gates to visitors.  It was not an easy place to find or to get the timing right to see it.  The last time she saw would have been in the late 1990’s just before she moved back to San Jose.

Sadly you can’t visit Daffodil Hill anymore.  The internet made the place easier to find with GPS and millions could follow the opening day of Daffodil Hill on their FaceBook page.  By 2019, the crowds got so large and unruly that the family finally said, “we can’t do this.”  They never charged admission to see the daffodils and the thousands of daily visitors along with the hours long line of cars waiting to get in ended family’s desire to open up their home and they announced that the hill would be closed to the public from now on.

The annual event was a tourist draw to Amador County and the communities of Jackson and Sutter Creek.  This year the community of Sutter Creek is advertising all the other places in town that have daffodils and I’m sure there’s an effort to grow more to encourage the tourists to go there instead.

But things like mothers, daffodils and Daffodil Hill are fleeting.  Their moments in the fresh air and sun of spring are only the briefest of time and we’re left only with memories and the words of poets.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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34 Responses to Field of Daffodils

  1. Thanks for stirring memories. I attended a state school in Australia and we too became well versed with Wordsworth. Many years later I dragged hubby through the Lakes district, naturally reciting daffodils. Having had a Catholic education he no doubt thought I was bonkers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Andrew. I must say – this is one of my favorite posts of yours. I am late to the party (been chained to my new designs and just came up for air today – but that is another story) and came to think that maybe this would be like your Friday posts. While I like the clever phrases, I love reading your thought processes and stories a bit more. It was very interesting and it also made me want to look into daffodils a bit more. I did draw one a couple of years ago for my mother-in-law’s birthday, as she likes yellow a lot and the one I drew was white and yellow. I framed it up for her and she still has it in her living room.

    I hope you share more about your poetry and class. It sounds interesting and fun and it seems to be doing well provoking thought. Not only within you but in turn within us, your readers. Have a fabulous rest of the week. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Debra says:

    I’m sorry to hear that Daffodil Hill is no longer open to tourists, but I’m not shocked. I’m sure the family put up with a lot of public nonsense for much too long. People can be so disrespectful of other person’s property. I have always like daffodils and I’ve grown them from time to time, but you’re right about them being fleeting. Especially in a Southern California climate, but I do think they’re beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Too bad about daffodil hill…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny, I always think of “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, too! Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers – so bright and cheerful in the spring. Daffodil Hill must have been spectacular!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Andrew, an interesting and entertaining post. I love daffodils. I hope mother’s aren’t too fleeting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Those great poems enriched our childhood, didn’t they.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dave says:

    The coverage of your chosen word is impressively comprehensive here, Andrew. I can’t think of a single thing to say about daffodils (though they did make me think of Daffy Duck). I had to find a photo to be reminded of what they look like – thought they were more like tulips. I do know Sutter Creek. The whole “Gold Country” area is a fun visit, and feels like a step back in time to the old West.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love where this meanders and enjoyed sharing it on Twitter just now!

    I’ve never figured out the difference between daffodils and jonquils. Both are winsome words.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. John S says:

    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Cynthia says:

    I have not heard that one. In Canada, the flower related poem all school children learn is about poppies, In Flanders Field.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. jfwknifton says:

    You’ve researched that extremely well and found an amazing amount of information about daffodils. Well written!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. SusanR says:

    I do love daffodils.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Beautifully composed.

    Liked by 1 person

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