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.