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In Vacant Or In Pensive Mood

We’re not really yard-y people around here. We like things low maintenance. I suspect that if it weren’t cost-prohibitive to have artificial grass installed we would’ve done it already so that there wouldn’t even be a need to mow the yard.

I have places where I could grow flowers if I could grow flowers. I can keep children alive and I basically shouldn’t push my luck, so even though I would like to have a prettier exterior, it’s just not something I’ve been able to bring myself to do.

But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers in my yard. In fact, one of the undisclosed pieces of information about this house when we bought it is that in January, there are tiny patches of Daffodils that shoot up all over the place throughout the yard at random. (And tulips!!)


These daffodils make me think of one of my favorite English professors from college, a woman whom I’m quite certain has no idea the impact she had on my life.

It was fall semester.  A course in Romantic Literature to the present day. She was quirky. I liked her instantly.

I was eager to listen to her tell stories of her life. Stories about spending time in a castle in Europe. About how her daddy had been a small town judge. Her drawl tinged with hints of Scarlett O’Hara.

But then she talked Wordsworth and Coleridge and for the first time in my life, I understood the beauty of poetry. No longer was it a product of form and function.

I was an eager participant in lectures. I poured my heart into my assignments. I fervently sought her praise because I respected her so greatly.

And then one day she passed back a paper and I saw it. A frowning face. With tears. Odd for a college paper, yes, but not unlike her.

My heart sank.

I felt the churning of indignation in my stomach as I sat through the remainder of class and pondered what I would say to her when I asked her what I’d done wrong.

After everyone left, she noticed I was still sitting in my desk. She asked if something was the matter and the words spilled out of my mouth.

I didn’t understand how she could rate something so poorly that I esteemed so highly. That I felt to be some of my best work.

If I couldn’t manage to understand her assignment and sufficiently produce the work she required, would I ever be enough? A leap for the current situation, but existential crises rarely make much in the way of sense.

She stared at me the whole time I word vomited and then said something like “That is not what I meant. That is not it at all.”

We looked at the paper again and she said that my words, my ideas, had moved her to tears. Had rendered her speechless.

It was the first time since high school that my words had been validated by someone else. That I had been made to feel as though my thoughts mattered.

That moment changed me.

From then we became friends, my professor and I. We met for coffee to discuss the Romantics, poring over Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey. Like our own two-person Dead Poets Society.

As I continued through college what was once a friendship turned into Christmas cards, hers always with funny cat pictures. And then one year we didn’t exchange cards and I moved away. But I haven’t forgotten the lessons she taught. The way she brought poetry to life. The way her words inspired me.

And any time I do start to forget, the daffodils bloom and I remember.


For Grace.

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay: 
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

–William Wordsworth, 1804

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Saturday 30th of March 2013

Definitely, what a magnificent blog and instructive posts, I surely will bookmark your site.Best Regards!

Alli Neidhammer

Wednesday 20th of February 2013

I remember you reading this poem to us. Sweet memories. :)


Tuesday 19th of February 2013

Beautiful post :) I memorized this poem in high school and loved it. I can't see a daffodil without reciting it in my head. When I saw your post title I was excited to see what your experience with these lovely words was :)


Tuesday 19th of February 2013

I wish I had a teacher like this, maybe I would have listened in class? Probably not.... but, still an awesome teacher.


Tuesday 19th of February 2013

We just read this poem in my Frosh class. They don't respect it quite as much, but I love it :) And I love that you had such a great professor.

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