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James McConnell

A Rural Perspective: Time for the Crocuses

It’s almost time for the crocuses to bloom again. What a glorious sight they can be. And usually they come as a surprise, appearing before we expect them. After seemingly endless days of cold and snow and gloomy, cloudy days, suddenly you spot their emerald green shoots contrasting so strikingly against the brown of last fall’s dead foliage. Even though the soil is still icy cold, just a few short days of March sunshine and their brilliant colors shatter the winter and announce the rebirth of spring.

The young couple didn’t even notice the crocuses the first spring they spent in their old farmhouse. They were probably there but hidden behind the dense growth of vines and shrubbery that had accumulated from years of neglect. But by the second spring, they had been liberated and sprang to life as a pleasant surprise. Just a few of them below the bathroom window on the south side but brilliant in their color and so refreshing a signal of new life. The flowers reflected the optimism and freshness of the couple’s new life together.

Over the ensuing years, it seemed as though the emergence of the crocuses were milestones in the couple’s life as much as birthdays and anniversaries. They bloomed the third spring about the same time the couple found they were expecting their first child. Six years later the crocuses broke the gloomy and depressing winter following the stillbirth of their second daughter. A year later and it was the beginning of the final trimester of a tenuous pregnancy with twins. In years when spring came very early, the crocuses could help celebrate their wedding anniversary.

They planted more bulbs in different beds and carried on a friendly competition to be the first to spot a bloom. He often had an advantage for he walked past the beds each day returning for lunch from the family farm. The spring sun would have had just enough time to tease the first blooms open and he could announce their arrival.

Somehow, it seemed as though the oppressive lethargy of winter was dispelled and a new vitality and energy could be felt when the tiny flowers appeared. It meant that soon there would be fields to till and crops to sow, gardens to work and plants to set. In a few weeks, the lawn would need mowing and the flowerbeds tending. No reason to think about those things earlier but once the crocuses bloomed there wasn’t any doubt about what lay ahead.

Last spring he hardly noticed when the crocuses bloomed. It was too soon. His thoughts were usually elsewhere on his walks home and he couldn’t even be certain he saw them on their first day. And what did it matter. She wasn’t there to hear the news at lunch. It would take more than pretty flowers to erase the emptiness that was so pervasive. He planted a new bed of crocus bulbs last fall—but at the cemetery, not at home.

They enjoyed the beauty of the crocuses together for twenty-four years. This year the flowers will bring a reminder of the joys they shared. The delicate blossoms always signaled a reawakening and a reason to look forward. She was good at looking forward. This spring he will try to pay more attention.

 This article appeared in the Wellington Enterprise newspaper in 1998. It is reprinted with permission from the author.