Markers of Homesteads

She's scrawny, but she's trying.


I planted these daffodils last fall after buying them on clearance from Target (of all places) the year before that. So, the bulbs were in less than ideal conditions for longer than I would have liked and I feel blessed that any of them grew at all. This is the only bloom, but several of them have sent up some green shoots, so there's still hope!

While I was living and going to grad school in southern Illinois I took a class that explored all aspects of the Shawnee National Forest. During one class we went on a hike through the forest led by the state archaeologist. She led us to the remains of an old homestead. There wasn't much left. You could see the moss-covered foundation of the house peeking out from beneath the undergrowth. Scraps of metal, ceramics, and glass were laid out next to a dig site. The well intruded up among the trees. If it hadn't been pointed out to me, I probably would have missed the whole thing; all had been reclaimed by the trees, vines, and undergrowth of the forest. Except for one thing. The daffodils. Not native to North America, daffodils are always a marker of a human touch. Chosen and deliberately planted.

During and after the Great Depression, many of these homesteads in southern Illinois were bought up by the state and put into conservation programs. The forest slowly creeping back. After that day, I made many more trips through the forest and I started to notice the daffodils were everywhere. Patches here and there. Indelible signs of settlement and the human desire to make beautiful the places where we live.

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.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

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.

William Wordsworth, 1804.

3 comments:

  1. What a lovely post! You are always so thoughtful in your writing.

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  2. Now get out of my head. I was at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago and buying their last 3 bunches of daffodils that hadn't even opened yet. A woman behind me started talking to me about them and I said they were my absolute favorite flower because when I was a child my parents and I would walk out on a point of a lake that no one lived on and there were thousands of them...she told me to find this poem...THANKS!

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  3. Aw, thanks Katy! You are always too kind!

    Jen, that's such a beautiful memory! And the woman in the check-out line was right, this is the perfect poem to go along with it!

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