There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.


One of the coolest parts of teaching fifth grade is helping young kids to recognize metaphors.  Kids tend to be pretty literal, and they usually come into the grade level with a fairly concrete way of understanding literature and life in general.

Its part of my job to help them understand that sometimes a storm is a metaphor for a really bad mood, or that a sunny kitchen is a metaphor for a happy family life.

I love teaching this stuff!  Our poetry unit is one of my favorite parts of the year! All that symbolism.  All those fabulous metaphors.

So you would think that I would recognize a real life metaphor when it slaps me in the face (literally).

But I missed this one until it rose right up and stared me in the eye.

You see, I am a “wannabe” gardener.  I read gardening blogs. I subscribe to “Organic Gardener” Magazine.  Every spring, I visualize a glorious riot of colorful blossoms, a neat row of delicious vegetables, a panoply of growth and life.  And every June, as the weather gets hot and the bugs descend, I think, “What the HELL was I thinking?” and I go back inside where it is safe.

One of my very favorite flowers is the simple daffodil.  It is easy to plant, easy to grow, and it bursts into sunny, joyful life every year just as we are about to slit our wrists at the thought of one more week of winter.  Daffodils laugh in the face of the winter blues.  They are the exuberant cry of life’s triumph over death.  And they are really pretty.

So the first year that we lived in this house, 23 long years ago, I made sure that I planted a whole bunch of daffodils in the brand  new garden beds that I had created along our home’s foundation.  I planted yellow narcissus, and creamy colored double petalled daffodils. I set them out with tulips and grape hyacinth and day lilies and irises.  Awesome!

After about 12 or 13 years of glorious growth, though, my daffodils seemed to sort of peter out.  A lot of them sent up leaves, but never flowered.  I figured that they were just worn out, lifeless, no longer viable.  So I dug them up and threw them into the woods just behind our compost pile.

I knew that I didn’t want them actually in the compost, but I figured that if I just chucked them out there in the totally unkempt and untouched woods, they would gently fade away.  I planted nice new, fresh bulbs in the beds along the front of our house.

Enter the metaphor.

A couple of years ago I noticed that the thrown out bulbs, although they hadn’t even been planted, were sending up some very nice blooms.  I thought it was an anomaly of some kind, and didn’t really think too much about it.

It didn’t occur to me until this weekend that the “thrown out”, “useless” bulbs on our property were blooming and thriving and filling the air with life and scent and joy in a far more successful and beautiful way than the carefully planted little sets of three that I had so artfully put into the designated garden beds last fall.

I wonder how often my carefully crafted plans and lessons and ideas fall on barren ground, and how often some little “thrown away” thought takes root and blooms.  I wonder how often I overlook the value in what seems worn out and finished. I wonder how often I toss out a thought or idea, never suspecting that it will fall on fertile ground and bloom in awesome beauty when spring comes again.

How lovely it is to think that in spite of our mistakes, life finds a way to send out a patch of beautiful blossoms when the time is right for them to bloom.

Daffodil patch in the middle of the woods.

Daffodil patch in the middle of the woods.

Beautiful flowers flanking the compost heap.

Beautiful flowers flanking the compost heap.

96 thoughts on “There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

  1. An excellent reminder for us all, especially since our brains are always rushing from one thing to another, and we don’t give ourselves much of a chance for anything to take root and flower.
    And even though you had your doubts this year, winter finally, finally is over!

    Like

    • Honey, all my gardening is random! It is my fleeting attempts at order that are laughable! One of the best parts of spring for me is waiting to see what flowers and plants come up that I have totally forgotten!

      Like

      • I was speaking metaphorically – are you? 🙂 And I don’t know why my Gravatar says software (it is driving me crazy). Hopefully, I can change it and then both of my comments will sound crazy. 🙂

        Like

      • So funny; after I replied and called you ‘honey’, I noticed the “Softwear” label and thought I had been too cute with someone I don’t know!
        And of course I was speaking metaphorically….I think?

        Like

  2. Gorgeous! I love this. I love the way nature has a way of decorating the landscape all on its own. I have some bulbs that I was going to throw away but, instead, I think I’ll fling them into the air.

    Like

  3. I loved this post, especially your metaphor about teaching falling on barren ground. Just beautiful writing and thinking! It reminded me of the Henry Brooks Adams quote, which is one of my favorites (except for the pronoun use): A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

    Like

    • Oh, that’s lovely (except for the pronoun!) Thank you for your kind words. In the age of endless formalized testing, it is so reassuring to think that some small activity or idea is surely taking root somewhere and will spring into bloom long after I have left the child’s life.

      Like

  4. This is delightful. It gives me so much hope too, because I am a disastrous gardener, with lots of mistakes all over the place, and I find it all comes in beautifully somehow, because it wants to! My kids and I do a lot of accidental learning as well – just things that pop into our heads to think about, and off we go. I will be back. This is a great find of a blog. Thank you!

    Like

  5. http://www.dlmchale.com writes: Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I enjoyed reading your post and will spend some additional time on your blog in the hopes of experiencing some more of your talented and “authentic” voice. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. It was fabulous!

    Like

    • Yikes, thank you for the effusive praise! I was pretty shocked at the Word Press notice in my email this morning. I’m so glad you’ve found me! As soon as I can find the time, I can’t wait to wander through all of the wonderful blogs that I am now connected with!

      Like

  6. Funny seeing your title and then reading the post! Whilst studying (Eng Lit/Creative Writing) we read a book, I think Anne Lamott, who talks about the writing process in much the same way! Whilst writing all the rubbish she says to keep going at all costs as one day a bloom will rise form the compost (of shitty first drafts!) to grow into a great piece of writing! Is there a metaphor there!??!

    Like

  7. Beautiful metaphor! This year, my daffodils were definitely a welcome site after about 2 feet of snow in my yard for months on end. And yes, we all miss those moments to learn the lesson from something simple. Great post!

    Like

    • Thank you! You must live in my neck of the woods; we just got rid of the last few bits of the snow that was hiding in the woods. What a winter!!
      I love those first blooms that pop up in the spring; I have Siberian squill that has left my garden beds and spread around the lawn, too. Gorgeous.

      Like

  8. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 30: There’s Blood On The Bed, But Here In My Head, I’m Feeling Fine | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  9. That is a lovely metaphor, and nicely perceived. This kids in your classes are so lucky. As a poet who has seen so much poetry killed by teachers who just didn’t enjoy it and thus couldn’t pass the love of metaphor on, it was a true joy to read these words: “Our poetry unit is one of my favorite parts of the year!” That just made my day. 🙂

    Like

    • Glad to have made your day!
      I am constantly amazed at the depth of feeling that my students are able to express through poetry. The most reluctant writer emerges with voice and color through poetry. And they love it, too!

      Like

  10. I met a four once, it was after 3 and followed by 5. At least you did not throw the daffs far far away. Bulbs and other perennials need to be divided occasionally. A change of scenery or pace does us all well. And you certainly changed the scenery pitching those bulbs !

    Like

    • Took me a minute to “get” that joke, but I like it! You see why I’m not such a great gardener….I didn’t know I should divide those bulbs! Good thing they knew better than me.

      Like

      • The plants often fill in for us. I think the first rule of gardening is ‘trust the plants. They have been doing this for years’. Second rule ” don’t plant them too deep” you figured that out without even trying. Third rule sit back and enjoy !

        Like

  11. Personally, my biggest mistake was studying metaphors and poetry all my life 😦 I should have expected that being a literature major and all, right? Wrong. Non-fiction is literature too!

    Like

  12. Does the garden represent school ? Are the bulbs that stop blooming and get thrown away represent students who fail in school ? Then they bloom in the wild proving that the problem isn’t theirs but the system’s ?

    Like

    • Actually, the bulbs represent those ideas and creative thoughts that I have tossed out as “not good enough” because I failed to see the energy lurking inside them. The daffodils represent my inability to relax and let things go. And maybe in terms of school they also represent the fact that the pressures of the current educational system force us to plan every step every day, rather than letting the kids and their own internal creativity guide the school day and curriculum.
      I don’t know for sure, but I most definitely did NOT mean failing kids! A child who fails is a school who fails, pure and simple.

      Like

  13. Lovely. I have a little place up in New Hampshire which my grandmother bought in 1940. The daffs she planted are still blooming, even though the ones I planted here in the 80’s have mostly petered out. Another example of old things perhaps having deeper roots and meaning than shiny new things!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Good luck with keeping up w/ the comments-

    Like

    • That’s wonderful! There is a bike path near here, in central Mass, and when you look off into the woods, sometimes you see lilacs or daffodils blooming, and you know that once long ago, some woman’s home stood there!

      Like

  14. Someone with such a mind for making simple but powerful connections must be an excellent teacher. Maybe I’ll find the answer as I continue reading your stuff, but I wonder how many terrible teachers you know?
    Thanks for the insights.

    Like

    • Well, while I truly appreciate the thought, I don’t know that there is so much of a connection between appreciating life’s connections and being a good teacher. The latter takes patience, humor, organizational skills, flexibility, warmth, humility and a lot of physical stamina.
      And I don’t know any “terrible” teachers, although I am sure some exist. I do know lots of frustrated, tired, demoralized teachers, but I wouldn’t call any of them terrible.

      Like

    • I will, for sure! Don’t you love poetry?
      I’m not at all a good poet, nor am I good editor or critic, but I love finding new bloggers to read and enjoy! Thanks for the invitation!

      Like

  15. This is great! I completely understand the ambition to garden, and then the fallout. As snow is piling up outside my window right now, the slitting wrists of winter is ever so long – hailing from CO. Teaching is much more than installing information, it is influencing. The subtle cues your student take from your lessons are probably just as powerful (if not more) as the content you are trying to communicate.

    Like

    • Oh, no! I’m so sorry about your snow….but so delighted that it isn’t here!
      The daffodil metaphor really could work in so many ways: the teaching ideas that we give up on, which later take root, the creative ideas that we dismiss….I could go on!

      Like

  16. Pingback: Religious Education and the Cusp of Metaphor | Primates

  17. I LOVE this! There are so many lessons to learn from the garden. I’m always amazed at how the lovely, delicate pansies push their pretty faces up through the snow.

    Like

  18. Is it strange that the first thing that came to my head was any number of reasons why your daffodils weren’t doing so well? I did see the metaphor, and every year here in Portland, I see it anew. But I also think that the reasons for your sad daffodils can be metaphors as well.

    Like

    • What a great point…..I really am a lazy gardener, but I sometimes wonder if my misguided efforts to exert control are what cause me problems, in both gardening and life.

      Like

      • In my experience, gardening takes practice and love. You have to know the needs of each plant you have. And even knowing stuff, sometimes plants just die. Let’s try not to make THAT into a metaphor…

        Like

  19. Pingback: ..From a pile of Stuff | Thoughts of a Lesser Canine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s