Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Case for Narcissism

The pale translucent beauty of these indoor Narcissus blooms (the cultivar is Paperwhite, 'Ziva') does indeed invoke their mythic namesake: the youth Narcissus, so entranced with his own image reflected in a stream that he literally fell in love with it, toppled into the water, and perished. A cautionary tale of self-absorbed infatuation. He gave his name to a psychological disorder of extreme preoccupation with oneself, Narcissism, but these delicate flowers, also namesakes, make the case for a more inspiring legacy. Anything so lovely has to be admired.

We've been gazing, entranced, at their slow unfolding for the past month. Every year my sweet sister sends a Christmas gift that grows.

The bulbs arrived mid-December, along with planting rocks, vase, and instructions on how to force them for maximum effect. At first, there wasn't much to look at, just the papery bulbs with pale growths emerging like the long, curved fingernails of a sloth.

Following the instructions, I filled the bottom of the vase with the planting rocks, pushed several bulbs into the rocks so they stayed upright with growing ends on top, and added water within an inch of the bulbs so they weren't sitting in it but the roots could grow down towards it. This was all new to me so every step was fascinating.

When everything was in place, I set the vase in a cool, dark corner. And waited.

It took a few weeks for the roots to twine downwards into the labyrinth of rocks. When the bulbs were anchored and green shoots were heading hopefully upward, it was time to bring them forth into the light.

By early January the tall slender stalks were tipped with swelling buds.

And the roots had woven themselves into a tangled, shiny, white mat at the bottom of the vase.

Here they are at peak beauty, blossoms leaning into the light, or, perhaps, bending toward their reflections in the window glass.

Thanks, Sis! It's been a great show.

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