For as long as I can remember, crocuses have been my flower. I grew up in Lumsden, Saskatchewan–a small town in the Qu’appelle Valley that sharply contrasts the table-top prairie surrounding it. In the hills in spring, we would find crocuses. They are faithful little things, bravely popping up every year after the snow is gone. Sometimes they pop up before the snow leaves, which is what they did this year. The only time they don’t is when Wallace the Chipmunk finds the stash and tunnels around from bulb to bulb eating them all. We had a small bed under a tree in the front yard, and he ate nearly.every.single.one.
When I moved to Ottawa, one of the things I loved immediately was the crocuses. They have been planted everywhere on purpose–all around Parliament Hill, on corners at major intersections and along boulevards where they can naturalize into carpets of white and purple with specks of yellow. While Ottawa is well-known for its Tulip Festival each year, the crocuses are my reason to celebrate. They are among the first flowers, followed by daffodils and tulips. No one else has the courage to try first.
There was a time when I was very ill, so ill that it was rare for me to leave the chair by the picture window. One day as I looked out at the world, I noticed a single crocus transplanted in the lawn, perhaps helped along by a squirrel who tucked it away for the future. There was so much hope for me in that tiny flower and I recall sobbing until I had no tears left. There was such a profound and exquisite beauty in that brave burst of colour. A promise of heaven, of something being left behind to bloom and grow, even though parts of it had to die for that to happen.
Once established crocuses have strong root systems and even Wallace will have to be highly motivated to destroy them all. They come up so early in the spring that often they are surprised by late spring frosts–today as I write this, we are getting new fresh snow. I’m a little bitter about that, but not as much as before I saw this year’s blooms. It’s been such a long winter, and every life will experience such a season. After a few days of wilting, a fresh burst of warmth will make them open again.
But–what joy–I’ve been reminded they are there. I know they have made it through. Why does this matter? Because during the time I was so very sick, an acquaintance gifted me with a poem, the last line of which was “One more spring for Crystal.” Not a single year goes by where I don’t think of that. The moment I see a little striped flower popping its cheery face up in my front yard, I know I’ve been blessed. It’s a beautiful, life-affirming thing.
Some days are harder than others. Some months, some years even. It’s that way for everyone. Crocuses cannot bloom without a winter in between. Spring is not spring without that same burdensome period of rest.
For whatever reason, I’m not dead yet. I’m pretty happy about that and I celebrate birthdays with abandon. When it is my turn, as it surely will be some day–plant crocuses, as many as you can. Remind yourself, it’s one more spring for you too.
Because that, is surely better than the alternative.