Daffodils growing amid rocks

By Jacqui Banaszynski

Above are a couple of spring daffodils for you as the world passes the spring equinox, and the tilt of time once again shifts. I send them for no other reason than it’s spring and daffodils are both happy and wonderfully determined. These popped up through the rocks in the alley that borders my house.

As someone who has always lived in the northern reaches of the U.S. — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington state — daffodils were one of the surest signs that winter does, indeed, cycle out for a few months. In my childhood village in northeastern Wisconsin, they were late-April risers. Yet somehow my paternal grandfather always managed to have a few blooming on the sunny south side of his house in time for my birthday in mid-April, and would bring them to me as a gift. Long after I left for college and career, he still brought them to my parents house, insisting that they let me know about them.. I always considered them more precious than gemstone-of-the-month diamonds. My maternal grandmother, whose birthday I shared, also managed to have a few at her farm. She was 94 when she died, and was buried on our mutual birthdays – her 95th and my 43rd. One of her daughters came to the funeral service at the little country church my grandmother worshipped at; her arms were filled with 95 bright yellow daffodils.

After more than 25 years in Seattle, spring still catches me by surprise. As my friends back home wail about yet more cold and snow, I am mince-walking in the mud on the way to the trash bins and sneezing my way through the advent of allergy season. This year, spring in the Pacific Northwest is a full month early — courtesy of climate change, according to the scientists. That’s a bad portent for summer: drought, water restrictions, high wildfire risk. Even as I delight in the glory of blossoms that grace my neighborhood, I am aware of the duality they represent.

That duality was never more acute than during the last months I was reporting/writing “AIDS in the Heartland” back in 1988. The main character, Dick Hanson, had died the summer before. His partner, Bert Henningson Jr., was facing his own near death from AIDS. In honor of Dick’s mid-April birthday, Bert would find — you guessed it — daffodils. Except he called them “laffodils,” and when I asked him about it, he simply said, “Because they are so happy they make me laugh.”

He died a month after we had that conversation.

Early spring, with it’s erratic weather and incomplete blooms, is a reminder that dualities are part of life — and we must be open to them if we want our stories to be true. Much of the subject matter we chronicle is painfully real. But don’t miss the wondrous gems of humanity sparkling throughout.

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