Hearts of Gold

Hearts of Gold

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Driving into Meriden’s Hubbard Park last week was like wandering into Wordsworth’s poem. Gentle slopes dotted with daffodils extended back toward the woods across from glistening Mirror Lake.

Amid swaths of green, blossoms swayed in orderly patches—one surrounding an inviting bench—and naturalized clumps. Intrigued by the different sizes and combinations of yellows, oranges and whites, I quickly counted 15 varieties in varying stages of bloom.

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They turned out to be a fraction of the 61 different types of approximately 600,000 daffodils that bloom annually throughout Hubbard Park. Nailed to a tree, one sign warns of a $98 fine for every illegally plucked daffodil.

Enjoyment for all has been the guiding principle of Hubbard Park since 1901, when industrialist Walter Hubbard gave 1800 acres “upon condition” the land “be used in perpetuity by the people as a public park for their pleasure and recreation.” And indeed, it has been. The day of my visit, folks posed for selfies in front of the daffodils while others strolled, biked or drove slowly by. I first joined the dog-walkers, joggers and stroller-pushers on the half-mile loop—part sidewalk, part road, part dirt—around Mirror Lake while picnickers basked in the sun and families tossed bread to ducks, cormorants and geese.

With its fountains, waterfall, bridges, gazebos, sidewalks, benches, formal gardens and weeping willow island adorning Mirror Lake, the park is a testament both to the vision of Hubbard and the skill of landscape architect John Olmsted—the son of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park—though it’s not quite intact. Since the 1960s, Highway 691 has sliced through the park, separating wooded hiking acres from the recreational area surrounding the lake. More modern additions include a large playground, tennis courts, a pool, an outdoor stage and even casts of dinosaur tracks.

The most recent artistic touch was a banner of crocheted daffodils affixed along the side of the pedestrian bridge where Mirror Lake waterfalls into Crow Hollow Brook. The brainchild of Meriden resident JoAnne Grabinski, this “Daffodil Bloom” showcases a true community effort. Crafters crocheted daffodils in natural colors from weather-resistant yarn; in Gallery 53, just off the Meriden Green, teens from three area high schools zip-tied the daffodils to the mesh background; Meriden Parks and Recreation hung the banner; and the James H. Napier Foundation provided the funding.

The yarn bomb will remain in the park at least through the Meriden Daffodil Festival this weekend, which offers a crafts fair, carnival rides, food, music and entertainment including a Little Miss Daffodil contest, a parade on Saturday and a 5K Daffodil Dash Sunday.

But as I snacked in the shade near a memorial to Hubbard and gazed past the water, gardens and woods to the northern vertical backdrop of the Hanging Hills, I was grateful for the relative solitude. Atop the ridge, popular hiking destinations Castle Craig Tower and West Peak beckoned. Yet in that moment, I was content to sit—

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Hubbard Park
999 West Main St, Meriden (map)

Written and photographed by Heather Jessen.

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