In a chilly climate, a floral foretoken of warmth.

My first memories of England are sensory: a bitter, bone-numbing, finger-shriveling cold. It was January. I was 20. And I couldn’t stop shivering.

My housemates in Oxford all made fun of me, as I piled on layers of long underwear to ward off the chill. I even cranked the heat up in my room, but I couldn’t get warm.

Before arriving at the university, I’d stayed for a week with a lovely family in their country home in Worcester. The wife was so proud of the formal garden she had recently built. The tiny boxwoods were arranged in a knot pattern, and she lovingly listed the flowers that would go in each of the spaces between the boxwood hedges. I didn’t register most of the list, but when she mentioned that the snowdrops would bloom in February, my ears began to thaw just a bit.

When I arrived in Oxford, I made weekly pilgrimages to the expansive city park. Muffled in my wool socks, hat, and thick red winter coat, I searched the ground beneath the trees for signs of tiny white snowdrops, the earliest harbinger of spring.

And when I found the first one, my heart began to warm just a little towards my new island home.

Article © 2009 by Stacey Duck