Yesterday, I bought hyacinth bulbs and, for me, it was the most instinctive and natural thing to be doing at this time of year.
When I got home, I looked under the kitchen sink for the ‘hyacinth bowl’ which has always been a fundamental part of my November life. There it was, just as it lived under every kitchen sink that my mother ever had.
It’s a bowl that she inherited from her mother and every year we would plant three hyacinths in it and put it into the the darkest press in the house, ideally one that had no reason to be opened, except to keep the soil from drying out.
I was always desperately impatient to see the the green shoots appear and would steal glimpses in at the bowl when I had the place to myself.
The day the bowl was taken out into the air was always momentous and and we would watch the buds grow and eventually cast their delicious colour and scent all round the kitchen.
I mentioned a few days ago that November, for me, is very much about ‘remembrance,’ in its broadest sense. Hyacinths evoke some of the strongest memories I have of my late mother whose love of nature, and passing on that love, was deeply ingrained in her.
Just to touch that bowl, yet again, makes me smile and think of how Mother would be warning me not to open the press and give the poor hyacinths a chance! It also makes me think of how it’s not the BIG occasions that seem to draw Mother’s presence to me; rather little rituals that we shared and which were so often associated with planting the seeds of hope and colour.
So, if you haven’t bought your hyacinths yet, take this advice which Mother always quoted as hyacinth-time approached.
“If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul”
– Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet