Daffodils, Spring, and beauty in the ordinary

This will be a little different, so please, bear with me.

Elegância is the name of my new column, in which I hope to call attention to routine beauty and elegance in the world around us. I hope you enjoy it.

Daffodil is the common name for the narcissus, a family of perennial flowering plant with dozens of species.  This example is the common bright yellow, but colors range from green to red.

The plant is named for Narcissus, a beautiful young man from Greek legend. Narcissus was so vain that one day he was enraptured by the sight of his own reflection in a still pool of water. He sat at the side of the pool night and day staring at his lovely visage.  He did not sleep, eat, or even drink from the pool in front of him. Finally, he died, and the narcissus plant rose from where he lay.

The daffodil is one of the first flowers that rise from the soil in the spring, sometimes rising from a thin layer of snow. It is prized as a harbinger of warmer weather, and for its own beauty.

Spring is a time of reawakening of the natural world, and of our outdoor lives. The first sunny day of spring in these parts is an occasion for sun worshippers of both sexes to find a beach and strip down to swim gear. This is quite amusing when the temperature is still in the 50s, and bikini clad goose-pimpled women endure the cold to feel the sun on their skin.

People need the sun as much as plants do. Vitamin D is produced in the skin when sunlight touches it. Without Vitamin D, children develop rickets, a bone growth disorder. Adults become prone to many chronic diseases without the sun or another source of the vitamin.

Many people become depressed without the sun. The sun regulates the wake sleep cycle; when bright light enters the eyes, a signal is sent to a small group of brain cells, near the optic nerve, that serves as the brain’s timekeeper and thermostat. This keeps it in step with the day-night cycle.

Without this, many people become tired and depressed.  This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and is often treated by simply having the patient sit in front of lights bright enough to simulate the sun, creating an artificial spring

Spring is also seen as a time for reawakening passions, both of love and more esoteric varieties. We start new love affairs, new hobbies, new obsessions this time of the year. We still feel the rhythm of night, day, and the seasons, no matter how insulated we are from the natural world.

Spring holidays around the world feature fertility and rebirth as their major theme.  The story of dying and resurrected god has roots far deeper in time than Christ, and these gods were also associated with spring.

Whatever you are doing this spring, remember to celebrate the rebirth of the world, and to notice the small things of beauty in the world.

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