Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
—Matthew 6, 28-29
Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours running errands. Thick clouds blotted out the sun as I left the cottage. A fine mist began falling before I’d driven the half-mile down to the bridge. The sky grew darker. I flicked on the truck's wipers and headlights. Mist became a drizzle as the wind picked up and the air temperature cooled. I'd not worn a jacket and was woefully underdressed for the weather in shorts, tee-shirt, and sneakers. I got damp darting in and out of the stores, and by the time I'd finished and started home, was thoroughly chilled, almost on the verge of the shivers. (Of course, a perverse bit of male DNA messaging, doubtless originating in some lower corridor of my brain, kept whispering that only a wuss would give in and turn on the truck’s heater. (And, yes, I do know how stupid this sounds—the thought sounded equally stupid to me even while I obeyed. Thankfully, I inexplicably forgot all about personal discomfort when I began to notice the flowers. Just beyond the windshield—alongside the road, on stream banks, in field corners, even tucked back in the edge of certain damp woodlands where you’d think it ought to be too shady—numerous patches of bright orange day lilies stood in festive bloom. Some patches numbered in the dozens of flowers; other in the hundreds. I can’t begin to estimate how many orange lilies I passed during the half-hour journey home. What's more, it turned out the small patch of orange day lilies at the end of my drive had bloomed in my absence—a few of them, anyway—in spite of the cold, clouds, and rain. A sort of visible miracle! Of course lilies have long been considered a symbol of hope. This has obviously been a good year hereabouts for orange day lilies. Apparently the latter half of spring served up the perfect mix of weather—the right amount of sunshine, heat, cool nights, and rain. Whatever the formula, it was ideal for our naturalized orange day lilies’ maximum growth. I know I’ve never seen them more abundant or looking better. Some folks casually refer to these attractive summer heralds as “ditch lilies.” While this alternate name does recognize the plant’s preference for a moist setting, I’ve always felt the term too derisive to be applied to something so lovely. Moreover, the botanist who gave the orange day lily its species names apparently shared this opinion. The orange day lily’s scientific name is Hemerocallis fulva. “Hemerocallis” comes from two Greek words which mean “beautiful” and “day.” The “day” part refers to the brevity of the blooms, since a day lily stem may carry a cluster of several buds, yet only one or two of these will be in bloom at a time—and the large blooms will last only a day. (In case you’re wondering, the variety name, “fulva,” means “yellow-orange.”) Day lilies are not native wildflowers. Originating in Asia, they were introduced here by European colonists who knew them as easy-to-grow perennials. Too easy, some would mutter, because the showy lilies soon went AWOL over the garden fence. Yet abundance and a non-native pedigree doesn’t mean a plant can’t also be delightful. Driving homeward under a leaden sky, following the winding backroads, wipers swishing rhythmically, those big swathes of red-orange day lilies lit up the gloom…magically lightening my heart, warming my spirits, and as they've done throughout the ages, instilling a healing dose of hope.