Shay’s anniversary is synonymous with the arrival of snowdrops. Twenty four years ago I drove home from Walkinstown to Naas with the boys: it was snowing, the roads were slippy, we were lost in this new world of aloneness and grief. We stopped into St Corbans to leave our small pot of snowdrops, a little sign of life and hope among the mound of flowers, sadly beginning to droop after nights of frost.
I believe the snowdrop is a native if southern Europe and monks are credited with first bringing the fragile yet resilient plant from Rome to Ireland and planting them around the monasteries. They not only grew easily here but thrived.
This year I might take a visit to Altamont Gardens (Carlow) or Ardgillan Castle (Dublin), or Shankill Castle (Kilkenny) or Burton House (Kildare) where they grow profusely.
Heralded as the first flowers of the year, snowdrops are a welcome reminder that spring is on it’s way. Wordsworth’s poem To A Snowdrop captures the essence of what the snowdrop means to me:
Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art though welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years.