At the heart of the Christmas season, as each new dusk comes sooner than the last, as the solstice colors of red and green and gold lend comfort, I buy a bag of ugly, knobby scaly bulbs. Narcissus. Nothing about them looks promising. Are they even alive? Planting them at all is equal parts faith and gardening.
Put them in a bowl, add water up to their shoulders and wait. And wait. And wait a little longer. Soon a slender stalk pokes through, a soft, ripe green. Then there's the swelling of a bud. And one day they're open, all of them, a froth of white, just right for the new year.