Harper in action.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Daffodil Letdown

Harper's favorite color is yellow. In fact, Harper may be living proof that personal preference can be taught at a very young age. See, McCall used to have this car, and by car I mean steel deathtrap on wheels. Anyway, it was a 1970 VW Fastback and it was yellow. We gave the car to her younger brother before Harper was born but McCall has always loved yellow cars and loves pointing them out.

As Harper was learning colors, it seemed to me that McCall gave a little special preference to yellow. So it's no surprise that Harper has never wavered on the question, "What is your favorite color?" It has always been an enthusiastic reply, "Yellow!"

So we like to point out yellow things for Harper: there's a yellow car, yellow sign, yellow shirt, whatever. Recently, McCall was hunting online and found a story about a woman in the San Bernardino mountains who has a giant daffodil garden that is open to the public to come and see. It is advertised as sea of yellow. In fact here's the story (edited for length) McCall read to us as we drove out towards the mountains yesterday:


Several times my daughter had telephoned to say. "Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. Going and coming took most of a day -- and I honestly did not have a free day until the following week.

"I will come next Tuesday," I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove the length of Route 91, continued on I-215, and finally turned onto Route 18 and began to drive up the mountain highway. The road becomes narrow and winding toward the top of the mountain. As I executed the hazardous turns at a snail's pace, I was praying to reach the turnoff at Blue Jay that would signify I had arrived.

When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren. I said, "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these darling children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears—and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her.

"I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car. The mechanic just called, and they've finished repairing the engine," she answered.

"How far will we have to drive?" I asked cautiously.

"Just a few blocks," Carolyn said cheerfully. So we buckled up the children and went out to my car. "I'll drive," Carolyn offered. "I'm used to this."

We got into the car, and she began driving. In a few minutes I was aware that we were back on the Rim-of-the-World road heading over the top of the mountain.

"Where are we going?" I exclaimed, distressed to be back on the mountain road in the fog. "This isn't the way to the garage!"

"We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of the daffodils."

"Carolyn," I said sternly, trying to sound as if I were still the mother and in charge of the situation, "please turn around. There is nothing in the world that I want to see enough to drive on this road in this weather."

"It's all right, Mother," she replied with a knowing grin. "I know what I'm doing. I promise, you will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes we turned onto a small gravel road that branched down into an oak-filled hollow on the side of the mountain. We parked in a small parking lot adjoining a little stone church.

On the far side of the church I saw a pine-needle-covered path, with towering evergreens and manzanita bushes and an inconspicuous, hand-lettered sign "Daffodil Garden."

We each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path as it wound through the trees. The mountain sloped away from the side of the path in irregular dips, folds, and valleys, like a deeply creased skirt. Live oaks, mountain laurel, shrubs, and bushes clustered in the folds, and in the gray, drizzling air, the green foliage looked dark and monochromatic. I shivered.

Then we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight, unexpectedly and completely splendid. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. Even in the mist-filled air, the mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils.

The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety (I learned later that there were more than thirty-five varieties of daffodils in the vast display) was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.

In the center of this incredible and dazzling display of gold, a great cascade of purple grape hyacinth flowed down like a waterfall of blossoms framed in its own rock-lined basin, weaving through the brilliant daffodils.

The effect was spectacular. It did not matter that the sun was not shining. The brilliance of the daffodils was like the glow of the brightest sunlit day. Words, wonderful as they are, simply cannot describe the incredible beauty of that flower-bedecked mountain top.

Five acres of flowers! (This too I discovered later when some of my questions were answered.)

"But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn.

"It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home. " Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house, my mind buzzing with questions. On the patio we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking" was the headline. The first answer was a simple one.
"50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and very little brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

There it was. The Daffodil Principle. For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun -- one bulb at a time -- to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain-top.

One bulb at a time. There was no other way to do it. One bulb at a time. No shortcuts -- simply loving the slow process of planting. Loving the work as it unfolded. Loving an achievement that grew so slowly and that bloomed for only three weeks of each year. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world.

This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration: learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time -- often just one baby-step at a time -- learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

As McCall read our anticipation grew. She showed us pictures she'd printed out of this magnificent garden.

Then McCall got quiet, "Oh, wait."


She read on...

She has been through 2 fires in the last 4 years and has lost many of the daffodils.
Perhaps, only if you want to, you can send her $5 in the mail so she can buy a few new bulbs.

This is what I said in my head: "How could you have possibly missed that??? It's at the bottom of the page you're reading right now. THIS is the story that convinced you to pack us all in the car drive an hour and a half and look at some burned flowers!?!? And you didn't bother to actually finish reading it?"

Out loud I said, "Hm."

What was the point? We had already built it up for Harper, our day was planned around this trip, there was nothing to be done but forge ahead. Besides, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey, right? Right?

We arrived at the same church mentioned above. We parked in front of a pair of port-a-potties and followed the crowd to the garden entrance. As we wondered down the dirt path I kept wondering how many flowers was "many". The story said that she'd lost "many" of the daffodils. What does that mean?

We rounded a bend, and I got my answer. "Many" meant "nearly all". There were a few patches of yellow here and there, but for the most part, the mountain side was dirt and scrub brush. There was some detectable fire damage and the home on the grounds looked brand new. We later found that Bauers, the couple that own the land and keep the garden, had lost their home in on of the fires as well.

It was, to say the least, a staggering disappointment. I tried to imagine what it must have looked like. It was difficult to know how far they may have once stretched. We followed the path that winds through the garden stopping every now and then to look at the few remainders. Eventually we came to a bench. It was obvious that this bench was the last stop on the path. Most likely it was placed to maximize the effect of the best view. I marveled at how tremendous it must have appeared in years gone by. But for us, it was simply looking out over the San Bernardino valley.

Don't get me wrong. The view was spectacular. San Bernardino is beautiful and the views from the mountain are breathtaking, but it wasn't a view of the valley we had come all this way to see. And so we departed, drove down the mountain a way and had a picnic lunch under a tree on the side of the mountain before making the return trip to Los Angeles.

Mrs. Bauer started planting the daffodils in 1958. This week, Easter Sunday, the daffodil garden will close forever. I am glad to have seen it, though it feels like seeing MJ playing for the Wizards. And I am thankful that there are people like the Bauers who choose to create beauty privately and share it publicly.

For a complete history of the daffodils click here. It's a transcript of a powerpoint presentation by Dale and Gene Bauer themselves.

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