Bob Swenson has lived on Dow Lane in Youngs River for around 45 years. He’s been making peoples’ day for nearly as long.
Swenson, 92, picked 4,150 bright yellow daffodils this year, he estimates. Who gets them? Neighbors, care facilities, senior centers, doctor’s offices, churches. He brought nearly 500 to Bethany Lutheran Church in Astoria.
After a long, wet winter, the cheer the vibrant flowers bring is hard not to enjoy.
They also show the passage of time.
“I think it’s just a reality that life goes on and the beautiful things of nature aren’t quelled by this pandemic, and that’s a nice thing to know,” Swenson said. “That nature continues to do its part in many wonderful ways to make us realize how important those things are, like birds and flowers and things like that.”
The coast’s climate is ideal for the flowers. They require little upkeep. “The only thing is after they do bloom ... you have to allow the leaves to die down for the photosynthesis to allow the bulbs to replenish, so you don’t do anything there,” Swenson said. “And that’s all you have to do with them, wait till next year, their lovely heads come out every year.”
Many are familiar with the daffodil cross outside the Pioneer Presbyterian Church during Easter. Swenson noted the Clatsop Plains area near the Astoria Golf & Country Club was once the home to many fields of bulbs for daffodils. Some still sprout there each spring.
Swenson is a fan of the poet William Wordsworth’s poem about daffodils, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”
He said he’s always wanted to memorize the poem but has never gotten around to it. Though he still remembers the poem’s final lines: “And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils.”
Swenson has been retired for many years, leaving open space for the flowers. He worked in the automotive industry until the mid-1970s before going to work at the Astoria Plywood Mill. His wife taught math at Clatsop Community College.
He’s reluctant for publicity and sees himself as more of a private person. But he understands the joy and calming power the daffodils hold, especially now.
“When you get older you have to keep busy and of course sometimes you get depressed so you have to keep moving and I walk a lot and I try to do things that keep your mind off of getting old,” Swenson said. “And this does help to see it’s rewarding to make other people feel good, which is very helpful.”
This spring, when so much feels in flux and there are no clear finish lines for the pandemic, take solace in the beauty of the daffodils, and the fragile strength they bring, signaling that time, too, marches on.