You’ve seen those pretty, trumpet-shaped, long-stemmed flowers that pop up through the snow in early spring here in the northern United States. They’re a genus of the Amaryllis family. We know them better as Daffodils, Paperwhites and Jonquils. There are almost too many varieties of Narcissi to count. I recently saw a pistachio green cultivar that I didn’t particularly care for. I prefer the white and yellow varieties that self-install, or “naturalize”, themselves across our northern landscape. Clumps of them can be seen blooming on hillsides, along highways, next to fence posts and even between cracks in sidewalks. The Narcissus is amazingly adept at popping up where least expected and uninvited; even where unwanted.
Persistence in self-assertion seems to be the key to their proliferation; The Narcissus’ amazing ability to find a foothold, root, survive and even flourish on the edges of places they shouldn’t belong. Let’s see a show of hands; who’s bought those potted and forced Paperwhites in the floral section of the grocery store, taken them home to enjoy and then tossed them out next to the trash cans after they whither? You can’t throw them in the can because you need to shake them out into the compost pile and recycle the pot, right? But the trash cans are closer to the door than the bins or the pile, so there they sit – for months! Next spring, guess what? Up through the covering of fall leaves – blossoms! The same thing happens when I divide out clumps of daffodils and forget to replant the separated bulbs. I’ve tried to blame the phenomenon on horticultural squirrels, but now we know better.
The Narcissus plant is not to be confused with Narcissus of Roman mythological legend, although I consider that Narcissus to be a bit of a blooming idiot – sorry. The story, written by Ovid the Poet of first century BC Italy, in the third book of his “Metamorphoses”, tells the story of a young hunter, Narcissus, who spends much of his time in the woods. A mountain nymph named Echo falls in love with Narcissus and follows him through the woods. He calls out to her “Who’s there?” but, because of a curse placed upon Echo by Hera the wife of Zeus, she can only reply with Narcissus’ words “Who’s there?” Narcissus, being annoyed, rejects her love. Heartbroken, she retreats to the glens and wastes away until all that is left is her voice, which we call an echo. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learns of Narcissus’ self-centered cruelty and lures Narcissus to a pool where he drinks, then sees, and falls deeply in love with “all the things for which he himself is admired.” His love being unrequited by the image in the pool, Narcissus wastes away in the same manner as Echo. Legend says a trumpet shaped flower appeared in the place where his body had been; the Narcissus flower.
This story is where we get the word “narcissist” from. The term can refer to anyone who is self-absorbed, self-centered or in love with themselves. A managed and appropriate level of self-love is mentally, emotionally and even physically healthy – especially in a world where other “lovers of self” are predatory practitioners of the Dark Triad of the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. However, one must be careful not to overindulge “the self” or we could end up with a society full of narcissists popping up all over the place like the much-preferred narcissi; or are they in bloom already?
© 2017 Curt Savage Media