Monday, March 1, 2021

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! A daffodil for Dewi Sant, photos

I'm not sure how the tradition first began, but about 40 years ago, daffodils, sold at a buck a bulb, were planted along Sonoma County roadsides to raise money for cancer research (the tradition may have begun in Canada as early as1965.) However it started, it was a wild success story. And daffodils have been used to raise money and promote cancer awareness ever since. Because daffodils have a chemical, esemastine, that kills breast cancer cells, they have become an international symbol of hope. (Narcissus pseudonarcissus, Amaryllidaceae family, are native to Northern Europe). 

In Sonoma County it has become a tradition that when someone dies of cancer, family and friends plant daffodils in remembrance—like the transplanted Mexican tradition of roadside memorials for car crash victims. The two traditions are beginning to merge in West Marin—shrines with la virgin de Guadalupe, trinkets and toys—even baby shoes—now include a stand of daffodils or narcissi. Most North Bay county roadsides are a riot of daffodils—a living reminder for those who have died. 

The late Mrs. Kunde planted truckloads of daffodils lining the roads and vineyards during the early 1990s, leaving behind a floral legacy. But the tradition dates back to the pioneer days in Cloverdale during the 1850s. Segue to WWII, old Margaret Kohler Adams bade a neighbor’s young son Merle Reuser to help her harvest and deliver daffodils to her friends. For ten years Merle delivered daffodils to neighbors each spring. But he put away his childish toys, he grew up went away to college, career, family. Daffodils no longer flooded the streets of Cloverdale.

Three decades later, during the 1990s, Merle returned home to Cloverdale, and the tradition was revived. In 1999 Merle promised “Granny” Margaret, who was 103, that he would pick her ’dills and give away a ton of daffodils in her memory after she was gone. She loved the idea. A legacy to give away a million daffodils by 2030, was hatched. Margaret died in 2000, at the age of 104. Merle kept his promise. In its 21st year, more than 200,000 daffodils have been given away anonymously, (that’s  20-50,000 flowers a year) in remembrance of cancer victims, making Sonoma County the daffodil giveaway capital of the world. (SonomaWest). 

Back to the Daffodil Queen, Saralee McClelland Kunde, of Kunde Winery who loved daffodils, she planted 20 tons of daffodils (100,000 bulbs) from Hwy 101 to Fulton and Forestville. She enlisted friends and strangers to help her plant daffodils to bring sunshine to the rest of the county. A dairy rancher’s daughter from West Marin, who grew up in Two Rock, she confessed her first love was cows. Kunde tirelessly promoted all aspects of Sonoma County agriculture. She succumbed to cancer at the end of January in 2014 just as the daffodils along River Road were beginning to open. She was 66. (ArgusCourier).

And the daffodil, the Cenhinen Pedr the symbol of Wales, just so happens to bloom in time for St. Daffyd's Day, March 1. Way more flashy than a leek behind your ear. (Cenhinen is the word for leek.) Both are symbols of national identity and of resistance against the overlords. They also symbolize rebirth and new beginnings. Every time I see those daffodils, it is also a grim reminder of all those who have died—like Flanders Field. The California poppies follow on their heels, bringing the color of the fiery sun with them. Maybe we should consider scattering regional native wildflower seeds along our driveways for all the Covid victims. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

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