The Daffodil Hypothesis

This is a very unscientific post, but the reading of “1° F” on my phone’s weather app inspired daydreams of pink cherry blossoms and a soft breeze that wisps through open windows and flutters flowery curtains. I actually do like winter (snowball fights, crunchy footsteps, and all!), but the handful of days every year that drop into the single digits strike a chill even in my Viking blood. My best solution for those days is to chug coffee and hot chocolate, bundle up like an Arctic puppy, and imagine beaches or springtime.

And springtime daydream is what triggered an old daffodil memory that I thought I would share with you all…


Some years ago, on a Sunday in April, I accidentally left my car’s headlights on for three services of church. Suffice it to say, when I returned to the parking garage, my car was not having the “start” option. I remember being annoyed, not just at myself, but at the fact that I going to be in the lab later into the evening than I wanted to be. Grad school was stressing me out, and a dead car battery just was not what I needed that day.

Flustered, I called AAA, and they promised to send someone as soon as possible—but considering my situation wasn’t technically an emergency, I could be waiting for a while. After explaining the situation to the parking attendant (who was now going to have to stay late because of me), I sulkily settled down to wait on a seat outside the garage where I could see the AAA driver when he arrived.

As I pouted in my chair, my mind raced with all of the things I needed to do that day and later that week, and I grew more frustrated with each passing moment. Honestly, I can’t even remember what seemed so important at the time, but I’m sure it involved something along the lines of deadlines for grants and conferences or the list of bench work that constantly stayed in my mind even when I was procrastinating.

Then in the midst of my cranktastic mood, I noticed across the street that the landscape around my church and the surrounding neighborhood was dotted with beautiful daffodils in full bloom. It was odd; I didn’t remember seeing them that morning, even though my favorite part of spring is watching daffodils and tulips come into bloom. As I reluctantly admired them (I was enjoying my sour thought process far too much to allow joy), it dawned on me that I had not noticed the blooming of any flowers at all that spring—and it was late April! Surely by now I should have noticed at least a few tree-lined streets bashfully glowing with pink and white blossoms, the colorful bursts of Easter bouquets, or even gentle crocuses that peeped from the earth every spring by the student union on campus. Somehow, though, I had missed it all. And it wasn’t that we were experiencing a late spring that year. I had just stopped noticing the beauty of the world because I was too absorbed in myself and whatever was clearly so important at the moment. My focus locked on the daffodils…so insignificant…but so comforting.

Eventually, of course, the AAA guy arrived and jumped my car battery. I went to the lab and started working on whatever had been preoccupying me. Most likely I finished whatever I needed to, I really don’t remember anymore.

What I do remember, though, was that before I began working, I wrote on a little strip of paper “The Daffodils I Would Have Missed,” and I taped it in front of my bench in the lab. I wanted it to serve as a reminder. My drained car battery had frustrated me. It seemed pointless, a waste of time. Yet without that delay, that forced pause, I wouldn’t have noticed that spring was all around me. Each flower I saw that afternoon had seemed to be a tiny gift, something to make me smile. They calmed my frustrated nerves and reminded me there was a big, beautiful world outside of the small confines I had created in my head.

I know that God used that afternoon as a teaching moment for me. I’d like to say that I never forgot the lesson, but I’m a stubborn soul and I often have to learn lessons many times before they stick. In the years since then, I’ve encountered much bigger frustrations than a dead car battery, but they’ve often been accompanied by much bigger metaphorical daffodils. Alternately, I know I have ignored many a daffodil because I’ve refused to stop pouting in my seat, choosing instead to relish in misery and entitled self-pity.

In 2015, I want to stop pouting. There was too much of that in 2014. I allowed defeat to consume me too many times, and I’m sure I trampled over far too many daffodils in my frustration. So, for myself and everyone else, look for the daffodils! We don’t know what God is up to in our darkest moments. Even when feel at our lowest. Even when the windchill outside seems to be a made-up low number 😉

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