Spring had always seemed a reward for enduring winter, a solace for the survivor.
But not that spring. The start of 2003 seemed more like an emotional endurance contest I wasn't winning, and my trip to the Puyallup Valley of Washington, about 25 miles from Seattle, seemed just another part of the drumbeat of despair.
It was raining and cold when I arrived to do a story on the area's bulb farms, especially the daffodil fields. Pictures had made their bright yellow seem like floral sunshine. Harumph. Floral sunshine my foot — a foot, I hastened to add, that was now wet and cold.
Puyallup was supposed to be a timeout from months of family sorrow that included a second cancer diagnosis for my 82-year-old mother, who seemed unlikely to survive the rigors of treatment.
The assignment — my bright idea — was blown, I was sure, and the boss wasn't going to be happy. I knew I wasn't. For two days it rained as though heaven were weeping. I tramped through fields, wrecking my shoes and muddying my clothes.
On the third day, the
rain tapered off. Exiting Washington Highway 410 at 166th Avenue, I came to
magnificent fields of daffodils that the sun was only just starting to light. A rainbow appeared, then another. I pointed my camera and laughed. I chased the rainbows all over the back roads and laughed. The sun's reflection off the daffodils was that floral sunshine.
Back in L.A., I called the owner of those fields. "What do you do with all the daffodils?" I asked him.
"Do you ever see the daffodils from the American Cancer Society?" he asked.
I told him I had just given some to my mother, who was in the middle of chemotherapy.
"Those are from our fields, more than likely," he said. I thought back to the fields and the rainbows.
Did the double rainbow over that field have some deeper meaning? I thought it did then. I know it does now. My mother celebrated her 90th birthday in December. Rain can't last forever, but the hope radiating from a field of brilliant daffodils can.
Catharine Hamm is Travel editor of the Los Angeles Times.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times