A story about dying is always a familiar story, right? The ultimate change challenge?
“They are dying!” I said, like this was a surprise or needed pointing out.
The daffodils, poster girls for Spring, now looked like used latex gloves* on stubbornly green stems.
My mother gave us the bunch early in self-isolation, soon after New York City had gone into lockdown. She cut them from the ruthless crop in her yard, as she did every spring when they briefly appeared. When my husband dropped off ice cream and Lysol spray (pandemic essentials), she sent them home for us–my husband, our 22 month old and our 4 year old– to bring the outside in.
The daffodils made me cry because they work. They are the symbol of arrival and transience, and they live and die boldly and quickly. They were also, very simply, from my mother. At that moment, my belly was ribboned with anxiety that she and my father, too, were facing imminent COVID transience. I imagined what so many are experiencing: final separation from us in an overwhelmed and handicapped hospital system.
The fear for my parents, the longing to cling, flared up: is it ridiculous cling to summer’s bounty when autumn has already dusted the trees of their leaves? For how long can you save that last blueberry before it shrivels?
But despite my contrafactual wish otherwise, die the daffodils did. I did not want to look at a dying thing on my table but I equally did not want to throw them out. Problem.
Turn it into Art & Make Your Meaning
So I dried them. I turned them upside down, bound their stems with a rubber band, and hung them from a random nail on the wall with a garbage twisty-tie.
Their vibrant yellow faded, their vibrant green went dormant inside an unremarkable brown. But they did not rot, and they became something else beautiful. Something I could keep.
I know, snooze, a story about daffodils drying. But stay with me here.
Days later, my husband found cyanotype papers on my stepsons’ shelves, a never-used gift. On those photo papers, you can make silhouette prints, which dry with an exhilarating blue background, if you place objects on the paper and expose it to bright sunlight for ten minutes. We had enough of that sun coming in our window at around 11AM to import a bit of eternity.
My artist husband and the confusedly excited kids set up the daffodils on top of the recycle bin (do we always make art out of our refuse? I think so). The baby, champion she is, made every effort to destroy the arrangement– because babies know with creation comes possibility of destruction, so get used to it.
But, miraculously, they imprinted, and became light.
This is a bit what pandemic lockdown, has been like for us. I’m going to advise you to use this principle in your writing: Change with the change.
First show the change, then how it changed you.
Without any significant change, your writing is taxidermied. Your situation and character are static, and this is not a realistic picture of how we go through life. It also may not be that interesting.
Sometimes the change is excruciating, but sometimes, if we really dig into it, or when we go to make meaning out of it, it’s a little more like the sky or daffodils– beautiful in many different forms.
We gave the cyano print to my mom, with my son’s signature on it. We had her and she had us and that was the best we could do. Meanwhile, the rest of the daffodils died in her yard.
So: Change with the change. And show us how the change changed you.
Also, don’t cling to dead flowers. The smell cloyingly of rot left in the water, and there is a reason. But the flowers, like us, can become something else, in their impermanence. And if they don’t, the baby, any baby, will take great pleasure, incomparable pleasure, in throwing them in the trash. And would you deny her that?
*footnote: they really looked more like something else I replaced due to considerations of audience. Can you guess what it is?
Resources for Changing with the Change
Struggling to change with the change? Want to write about it, but can’t manage? Thinking about your personal essay draft, rather than starting it? We got you.
Check out our free intro guide, or contact us to set up a private session— you’ll get meditations, personalized prompts, and development guidance, and we’ll send you more pictures of daffodils if that’s what you’re in it for.
.Your inner flower feeling like it needs to be backed up by the big sun? My Whole Heart Connection teacher Thea Elijah has some great exercises for you.
Losing your mind and heart in Quarantine? Vibha Arora at iParentPlus offers intuitive, informed online wellbeing coaching for parents and their children.