Creating Beauty

I love the story of the Daffodil Garden at Lake Arrowhead.  It is told by a grandmother who traveled to Lake Arrowhead reluctantly at her daughter’s insistence.  Her daughter drove her to the garden and they walked together with her small grandchildren up a path.  Turning a corner the grandmother says, “I looked up and gasped.  Before me lay the most glorious sight.  It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes.  The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.  Each different colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.  There were five acres of flowers.”

I live on five acres–I have a hard time keeping the trees trimmed and the underbrush cleared.  Five acres is a daunting amount of land to garden.

Returning to the grandmother: “‘Who has done this?’ I asked Carolyn”

“‘It’s one woman.  She lives on the property.  That’s her home’  Carolyn pointed to a well kept A-frame that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory.  We walked up to the house.  On the patio we saw a poster.  ‘Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking.’  The first answer was a simple one.  ‘Fifty thousand bulbs.’  The second answer was  ‘One at a time by one woman.’ The third answer was ‘Began in 1958’  There it was, The Daffodil Principle.

“I thought of this woman who I had never met, who had begun one bulb at a time to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop.  Planting one bulb at a time, year after year had changed the world in which she lived.  She had created something of indescribable, magnificence, beauty and inspiration.”
“It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal years ago and worked away at it one bulb at a time?”

Much of what we do has to be done one step at a time, even sometimes one baby-step at a time.  It takes patience, it takes effort and the results are not immediately visible.  

I do not have a hillside covered in daffodils.  But there are always things that need doing, things we want to do, which if done well bring joy and beauty into the world.  

I raised eight kids.  They came one at a time.  And the same lessons had to be taught over and over as each one reached those stages in life.  Instructions, lessons, warnings had to be repeated to the same child for the same tasks over and over again.  Was it worth it.  It was a work of beauty, not always visible from the middle of the hillside.  

Now that my children are grown I work in a Family History Center in Nogales, Arizona.  I talk to people who are looking for their families, their ancestors, an unknown parent, a long-lost aunt.  Everyone has a story.  And there are no shortcuts.  I was talking to a gentleman last week who brought in a book he had come across with the names and biographical information on over a thousand of his ancestors.  It was a treasure.  He asked me how he was going to enter the names into his digital family tree.  I had to tell him he would have to do it one name at a time.  He was somewhat deflated–“Why that would take forever.”  

Not forever, but it will take time, and you will get to know your family in a very personal way.  

I told him that when I started looking for our family history I found a book after much random searching that contained over three thousand of my husband’s ancestors.  As I entered those names I learned not only about his family–a family of good, hard working, honest, church going men and women–I learned the history of the United States in a very personal way.  I met brothers who fought in the Revolutionary War,  a family who accompanied Daniel Boone to Boonesville, men and women who moved from Kentucky to Ohio and became a part of the underground railroad.  I read about a young man who left his wife and family to join the California gold rush.  On his way back home he was robbed and killed.  He had left his true treasure unguarded, his wife and children who were now destitute. As I got to know these people history came alive.

Our history is also the history of a nation, of the world.  My friend with a thousand names is a descendant of the New Mexican Spanish.  Those Spaniards who bypassed Mexico and made their home for hundreds of years in what is now New Mexico.  His grandfather ran away from an abusive father and ended up in southern Arizona working as a ranch hand until he could save the money to buy land of his own–land his eighty year old  grandson ranches to this day.  It didn’t come all at once.  It came because someone worked hard everyday, planned, and built a better life.

So now his grandparents are in his Family Tree and he feels a love and respect for them he would never have had if he hadn’t wanted to know who his family is.  He started with a thousand names, he has  998 more to go–except he will find others as he goes along.

I could go on with this Daffodil Principle.  Writing my books, I can bang out thirty pages in the first afternoon.  Then comes the thinking the research, the additions one sentence, one word, one new character at a time. Revising is hard.  I hate to cut out anybody once I have written their story, gotten to know them at least in my own head. Each character in each book, each book I finish is a golden addition to the garden.  We may not be planting daffodils but we are creating our lives, one step at a time.



About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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