Flowers to Soften the “Dread of Decline”

This quote is from American Ghost, in which journalist Hannah Nordhaus explores her family history, starting with an ancestor rumored to be haunting a Santa Fe hotel. It’s one of the observations about life that Nordhaus tucks between information and beliefs about her prominent forebears, a “long line of bitter women.”

This is the book I’m reading today, which also happens to be my birthday. I’m not quite “middle aged” by most definitions, but I’ve gotten to the point when my birthday isn’t quite as fun as it used to be. I look forward to it each year, but mostly because it’s the first day of spring, my favorite season.

Each fall, hoping to make my birthday beautiful, I plant spring-blooming bulbs. Over the years, I’ve planted thousands of tiny snow glories and muscari, hundreds of crocuses and daffodils, and tens of hyacinths and snowdrops. I’ve also planted hellebores for late winter and early spring color.

It’s finally March 20th, but unfortunately, there isn’t much in bloom apart from the hellebores. We had a dreadful winter with unusually cold temperatures and late season snow. But green shoots are poking out of the ground nearly everywhere I look. It will be beautiful here eventually.

Carlton Daffodils (I planted 50 in 2015. They’ve multiplied.)
Presents from Mr. AMB, who knows how much I crave spring color on my birthday!

PS. As you may have noticed, I haven’t done any weeding yet. I try to limit weeds, but I like them, especially the ones that flower in spring. It’s no coincidence that the deceased matriarch of the Elkins family in Amelia Elkins Elkins, my retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is a gardener who appreciates weeds and shares my birthday.


  1. I have chronic generalized anxiety (which just means I always think everything is going to harm me), and reading your posts about gardening always make me feel calm. Someone out there is dedicating their time to making the world beautiful. I know you’ve written about that in the past: when the world is scary and mean, you take your girls outside and garden. Thank you, Amal, and happy birthday.

    1. Thank you! I have generalized anxiety too. I was diagnosed in college with GAD and depression and took a leave (finishing my exams over the summer). During my time away from school, I gardened, and it helped so much. It still does.

  2. Happy birthday! Your hellebores are lovely. A very nice gift from Mr. AMB to tide you over until your own daffodils are blooming. I hope you had a beautiful day celebrating.

  3. Happy, happy, happy birthday, dear friend! I hope the next year brings you all the joy, flowers, books and tea your heart can handle.

  4. Happy birthday! That’s an incredibly moving quote. I’ve read that book but don’t remember it, but I was younger then…even a few years’ time may have given me a very different outlook on that one. Your flowers look lovely and promising! Enjoy your day 🌷

  5. Happy B-day! Nice presents from Mr. A.M.B. That quote is something else. I don’t want to fear aging. I’m an optimist. Maybe we’ll invent something to help us age better and not just live longer.

  6. I’m 67 now. I wake up almost every day in some kind of pain. The bones ache, the muscles protest. I’m terrified of what will happen to me in the years before I die. It sometimes feels as if America would prefer we lay down and die, considering the treatment many suffer in “old age homes.” It didn’t help that Trump removed some of the few protections put in place for aging seniors. If I’m honest, I hope I die before I end up in such a place.

    1. I’m sorry, Fen. The way our society treats older Americans is shameful. I am familiar with nursing homes from my work (I’m an anti-discrimination lawyer, and I’ve represented workers in those environments), and I do believe some are better than others. I was raised in a culture that doesn’t put people in those homes, though. I prefer it that way.

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