Sunday, October 31, 2010

Great Expectations

or "The crocuses are blooming," she said belatedly.

Many science fiction and fantasy worlds rely on the idea that people see what they expect to see; if characters come across something that doesn't make sense, they usually re-interpret the vision to suit their expectations rather than the other way around.  Lois Lane can work side by side with Clark Kent all day every day and never recognize him as Superman—even though she's looking for Superman—because she doesn't expect the Man of Steel to wear glasses and a three-piece suit.  The muggles in Harry Potter's world can encounter shrinking door-keys and biting teakettles and never glimpse the magic behind them, because such an answer isn't anywhere on their horizon of expectations.  "Bless them, they'll go to any lengths to ignore magic, even if it's staring them in the face," sighs Mr. Weasley.

I've been feeling a bit muggley/Lois Lane-ian this week, because the fall-blooming crocuses have been blooming, and I almost missed them by expecting something else.  I'm new to the world of fall-blooming crocuses, but with the spring-blooming kind, I always expect the following:  About a month before the crocuses bloom, leaves appear; about a week before blooming, buds appear; for that entire time all is eagerness, anticipation, and suspense; then the blossoms open, and all is glory and delight; after a few short but spectacular days, poof! the flowers and leaves fade away into nothingness.

Having planted a handful of fall-blooming crocuses last year as an experiment (the bulbs are expensive, and I wanted to be sure they would thrive before getting enthusiastic about them), I've been watching for crocus-type activity since about the first of September.  Not  having seen any leaves, I'd pretty well given up on seeing any blossoms.  Great was my surprise, then, when I walked out into the garden the other day to discover these, already past their prime:


And these, coming into full flower:

Apparently, fall-blooming crocuses just up and bloom, and let the leaves happen at some more convenient time (either later in fall or in spring, depending on the variety).

Without the leaves, the flowers took me completely by surprise.  I don't think of myself as unobservant in the garden, but I didn't see any buds at all, not even for the crocuses in the beds where the ground cover hasn't filled in yet—i.e., in open dirt with no distractions.  But the buds have to have been there, right?  Even fall-blooming crocuses can't subvert all the laws of nature.  While we had some cool, blustery weather last week that wasn't conducive to long, lingering perusal of the garden beds, I still suspect that the real reason I didn't see the crocuses coming up is that I was looking for something else.  The buds had been there for days, and I overlooked them because they weren't following the leaf-bud-blossom-and-fade plot outline.

Instead of starting with the eagerness, anticipation, and suspense, the fall-blooming crocuses' story has been all about the glory, delight, and poof!, which is fine, but rather...rushed.  The surprise has been most enjoyable, but I did miss the pleasure of expectation, even though I suppose I can still look forward to the leaves showing up some day.  (And while I don't mean to criticize the design, I must say that to have the expectation follow the glory and delight seems a little disorganized.)  (Of course, it's always possible that I've imposed this plot outline on the crocuses arbitrarily and that there's no real reason for them to follow it.  But a good master narrative is a good master narrative.)  Still, the glory and delight have been strong enough that I rushed out to buy more bulbs yesterday.

I fully expect to be surprised by them again next year.


  1. A lovely narrative it is, too. I hope you are quite surprised by them again next year...ah, the benefit of aging. : )

  2. Ha! :) By next year I will probably even have forgotten that I wrote about them this year and end up rewriting the same post...