Every spring when the tulips and daffodils start blooming I’m reminded of a story I heard when I first began my family history journey. My dad had just given me the suitcase full of his thirty years of research and I felt overwhelmed with the task ahead of me. I attended a local family history fair hoping for practical help and inspiration. In one of the classes, the young presenter related a story written by Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards titled “The Daffodil Principle,” and how it related to family history.
Jaroldeen’s daughter, Carolyn, had invited her several times to make the two hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead, California so they could go see the daffodils. When the chosen day arrived, rain and fog made the drive difficult to her daughter’s home and Jaroldeen had no desire to continue to the daffodils. Carolyn contrived to get her mother back in the car under the guise of picking up a car at the garage. She continued of course to drive up into the mountains, turn onto a gravel road, and arrive at a small parking lot by a small stone church.
Mother and daughter along with the small children walked down a winding path through trees and shrubbery. Turning a corner Jaroldeen gasped when she saw the five-acres of daffodils.
Before me lay the most glorious sight, unexpectedly and completely splendid. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. Even in the mist-filled air, the mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.
She couldn’t imagine who would have planted the thousands of bulbs in thirty-five different varieties. Her daughter directed her to a simple home, walking up to the porch she read the poster.
Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”
There it was. The Daffodil Principle.
For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun — one bulb at a time — to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. One bulb at a time.
There was no other way to do it. One bulb at a time. No shortcuts — simply loving the slow process of planting. Loving the work as it unfolded.
Learning about “The Daffodil Principle” in that class over ten years ago made a profound difference in my attitude towards family history. Whenever I became discouraged at the mountain of work ahead of me, I remembered my own adaptation of the “The Daffodil Principle:”
One photo, one story, one record at a time.
One individual, one couple, one family at a time.
As I reflect on my journey, I realize that I love this work as it unfolds. Instead of stressing about all that needs to be done, I cherish the opportunity to find my ancestors and discover their stories, one at a time.