Of Daffodils and Poetry

April is the sweetest month for hopeless romantics with a penchant for all things spring. Add National Poetry Month to the calendar, and it’s enough to make this former literature teacher swoon.

A perfect spring day allowed me to take my classes outside to teach among the birds and the bees and eighth grade hormones in full bloom. There’s nothing quite like reading poetry with youthful hearts inspired by dreamy talk of life and love. My teaching days are behind me now, but I hope you’ll indulge me this month as I celebrate two of my favorite things ~ springtime and poetry!

As familiar yellow flowers pop up to say hello, I’m reminded of a beloved poem by William Wordsworth. A founder of English Romanticism, Wordsworth had an affinity for the natural world and was deeply concerned about the human relationship to nature, especially given the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution.

His poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, reminds us we live in a world of dancing daffodils and twinkling stars! Nature, Wordsworth implies, offers us wealth worth far more than money. And when we’re feeling a little lonely or sad, just contemplating the Earth’s beauty can bring us peace and pleasure. On a deeper level, the poem reveals a sense that nature is but a glimpse of heaven.

I hope you enjoy Wordsworth’s timeless poem, commonly known as Daffodils, and his use of that wonderful word jocund as much as I do! §

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud  

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 be but 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

 

 

Under the Same Stars

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight. For as long as I can remember, I’ve made a wish on the first star I see at night. This week, I will make a wish for a ten-year-old boy who lives in a small village in Uganda.

When I was a child, my wishes were those of a child. As I got older, they became less self-centered and foolish. Eventually, most of my wishes turned to prayers for the health and happiness of the people I love. After my children went out on their own, I found it comforting to know they might look up in the sky and wish upon the very same star as I.

Many years ago, my husband and I began sponsoring a little boy named Pascal through Compassion International, a humanitarian aid organization. I love knowing he, too, is under the same blanket of stars.

Pascal lives with his brothers, sisters, and mother, who has been ill for some time. His home has been described as a small shelter cobbled together with discarded materials. Fortunately, Pascal and many of the children in his village are able to attend a church-sponsored school.

I don’t know if Pascal understands he lives in poverty. If so, his smiling school photos and drawings of himself playing soccer, laughing with friends, and helping his mother belie the fact. When I find myself wishing for material things or for even more ease in my life, I think of Pascal and the three billion people on our planet who live in poverty.

There’s a quote I turn to when my life seems inadequate, when I let advertisements, HGTV, and social media make me feel small and envious. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself. Tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches. For to the creator, there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

Rilke’s words shame me. I keep the quote close at hand, just in case I need to snap out of it.

I sent a birthday card to Pascal, which an interpreter will help him read. I asked him to look up at the night sky. “Remember that you and I are on the same planet, under the same sky, looking up at the same stars,” I wrote. “I am making a special wish upon one of those stars for your birthday and always.”

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight. 

Please Note: About a year after I wrote this essay, we received a letter that Pascal’s mother passed away, and his guardian chose to remove Pascal from the Compassion project. Mike and I could no longer sponsor him. I called Compassion International in Colorado and was told this is a common problem with sponsored children. One of the most important feature of child sponsorship programs is tracking children so that they are not easily sold into slavery or recruited into rebellion armies. I was allowed to write Pascal a final letter and risked sending him our address and phone number, hoping he might contact us on his own at some point. We have not heard from him yet, but I pray he knows I will look up at our same stars this week and make a birthday wish for him. §

Parking Lot Rainbows

Most of us have had the chance to visit a place of magnificent beauty. Maybe you stood in awe at the edge of the Grand Canyon, watched dolphins frolic in ocean waves, hiked to a waterfall on a snowcapped mountain, or gazed at the northern lights. Those experiences become etched in our memory and remind us of the grandeur of our world, but natural beauty can be found almost anywhere. The wise and wonderful Maya Angelou wrote, “Open your eyes to the beauty around you. Open your mind to the wonders of life.”

I recently ran into the grocery store in a cold, driving rain. I struggled to control my umbrella as the wind blew it inside out. Sloshing and shivering through the aisles, the shoppers’ expressions looked as worn and tired as their winter coats. When I left the store, I was stunned to see the sky awash in a surreal post-storm glow and a full rainbow stretch over rows and rows of dirty cars. The parking lot was filled with people who stopped their carts and smiled heavenward.

Just this week, a surprise gift from nature brought comfort and joy to my mom and me. After 24-hours in the emergency room, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital an hour away. I followed in my car, accompanied by an immense orange sun that transformed the sky into an entertaining show of vibrant color until dramatically sinking into a cornfield. When I met my mom in her hospital room she quietly said, “Did you see the sunset? I watched it all the way here through the ambulance window.” In a time of distress, my mother chose to open her eyes to the beauty around her. I feel sure such a positive attitude will help her heal after unexpected surgeries.

There are natural wonders of the world that you and I may never see. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Africa’s Victoria Falls, and the Himalaya’s Mount Everest probably won’t become entries in my travel journal, but there are still amazing everyday sights to be seen.

In her book Open Your Eyes, Alexandra Stoddard wrote, “I’ve found most people go through life half blind. Few really know how to see and as a result are unaware of the majesty and beauty around them. But seeing can be learned, and to those who learn to see well, the world becomes an entirely different place. ”

As we make our way through our days, we can look for natural wonders wherever we may find ourselves. Daisies pushing through sidewalk cracks, chickadees singing on porch railings, clouds in the shape of a heart, and parking lot rainbows seem to show up when most needed to bring happiness, encouragement, and hope to those who open their eyes. §