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.