THE DAFFODILS OUTSIDE THE POST OFFICE
by Anders Cato
The daffodils outside the post office are already shriveled up and dying. Maybe there is a day or two left of their short, but brave lives. They were the first to challenge winter, but no one seems to remember. None of the people walking by cares about them. No one grieves the daffodils. I guess it’s not a good time to die. Now when everything is just getting started, when all the hope has returned with that warm wind a few nights ago. After all, who wants to grieve when life is just about to begin? It’s the time when everyone is starting to make plans for the summer. The time for getting in shape, having lunch outside, falling in love, staying out late on a weeknight, all the things we long for during winter, the things that make us feel alive.
But the daffodils won’t be saved by any upcoming plans for the summer. It’s over for them. Their lives are meant to be quick. As I see everyone just walking by the daffodils, without any thought about their impending death, I want to confront them. Have you already forgotten that day only a few weeks ago, I want to ask, the day you spotted the first daffodil, the sudden yellow bursting through the endless gray—have you already forgotten the relief you felt? Why don’t you stop and show them a little respect, I want to say.
But I don’t. I just stand there and watch people walk by. Maybe the daffodils remember that day, I think, and maybe that’s all that matters.
Then I think about how the first sign of hope is always what saves us. It is the fragile beauty of these short-lived flowers, which proves that vulnerability is stronger than anything. It is the only strength that can break all that distance that winter has created. The distance between people, but also the distance between each person and nature—life, yes, everything that feels so far away during winter. No person has the strength to overcome this lonely, vast distance; it is the strength that only daffodils know.
Perhaps we are not meant to grieve the loss of this strength, but just forget it and move on. You can’t live properly if you think too much about the moment you were saved. You have to trust that it lives on deep inside you. I too will soon have forgotten this strength. Come early June and I will be lost in all the other plants and trees, the ones that haven’t begun to blossom yet. And the next year when I walk by the post office on one of those cold mornings, I won’t remember the strength of the daffodils either. I will look at the icy ground and try to imagine the yellow flowers underneath, but as the wind runs right through me, I won’t be able to believe that such a fragile beauty can save me, that it even exists.
No matter how many times I have been saved by the daffodils before, I can never be quite sure that it will happen again. The miracle of these pale yellow flowers is not something I can rely on. And when it happens next year, just like it happens every year, I won’t remember being saved by them before. No matter how many long winters I have lived through and how many times the daffodils have saved me, it always happens for the first time.
As I walk past the last of the dying flowers and take a left on 33rd Street, it suddenly strikes me: the daffodils won’t remember either. No, of course they won’t. Every year is the first time for them as well. And during these last days of their short lives they probably can’t even remember what winter feels like. After that warm wind the other night, they have already forgotten. Just like us.
Anders Cato has directed over 50 productions in the U.S. and Europe at theaters including Moscow Art Theater, Cherry Lane Theater, American Repertory Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, Alley Theatre, and the Royal Court Theatre in London. Recently he has turned his focus to writing, while continuing to teach and direct theater at New York University. His screenplay The Room in Between was a finalist in the Francis Ford Coppola American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest. He wrote and recorded over 100 programs on American culture for Swedish National Radio. Presently, he is writing a collection of short stories. Last year he presented Photographs and Writing, an exhibition of his photographs and short stories at X Gallery in Harlem.