Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CONSIDER THE LILIES

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.

26 comments:

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I grew up calling them ditch lilies. Up here they won't bloom for a bit yet. I always think of them as high summer bloomers like clover. Most roadside wildflowers are small in size or subdued in color but this lily stands high and sings.

You've got to love a big orange flower!

Rowan said...

These would be the ideal antidote for a grey, wet day. I didn't realise that they are garden escapes in the US, had always thought they were native wild flowers. In UK they are garden perennials though nearly always named varieties that have been specially bred. I have a lovely soft yellow one called Marion Vaughan which is currently putting up more flower spikes than I've ever seen and of course we've had similar weather conditions to you as far as rain, cool nights and spring sunshine go. Hope you had a nice hot shower when you got in:)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

They've been blooming hereabouts for at least a week or so, but I really just noticed how very many were around—and how lush they looked—yesterday.

Funny thing, orange isn't usually one of my favorite colors. But I'm lately developing a real like of orange flowers. Isn't that strange?

The Weaver of Grass said...

We have them here in gardens Scribe but I have never seen any growing wild. I can only assume that they prefer your climate. We have one or two plants which were originally garden plants but have escaped and grow wild - rose by willow herb is one.
Hope your aches and pains from your work on your path are better today - don't suppose the chilly weather will have helped though.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

The orange day lilies in the photos, plus the similar tiger lilies are both naturalized escapees. We do have a number of native lilies, among them: Turk's-Cap, Canada or Meadow, Wood, and Michigan; all quite similar, except the flowers on the natives "nod" rather than hold upright.

The big orange day lilies are just everywhere—in ditches, along fencerows, bordering woodlands—and of course, planted in beds and clumps all around homes, barns, etc. Quite a show!

Your Marion Vaughan sounds lovely.

I did indeed have a hot shower, and a warming nip…er, two.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Griz-
Orange isn't one of my favorite colors either. I NEVER wear orange. But I am crazy for orange flowers! Go figure-

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

We have all sorts of naturalized stuff growing (and blooming) wild here. Orange day lilies are just one spectacular example. Of the dozen or so—at least!—wildflowers a'bloom around the cottage right now, at least half are not native plants.

But I'm not a native-only stickler. After all, my ancestors came here mostly from Ireland in the 1600s. I welcome beauty and usefulness regardless of where it originated.

Thank you for asking…and you're right, the chilly weather yesterday afternoon and during the night didn't do much for my aches after the walk-building session. In fact, I woke at just after 3:00 a.m., tossed and turned for awhile, got up at 5:00 for a bit, read awhile, returned to bed and read some more, then gave up and stayed awake (so far). Probably should have taken a pill.

But the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the river is up but not by too much, there's a barely-weaned stray kitten meowing and wandering around the cottage (have no idea what I'll do to solve that problem!), so I figure since I'm sore anyway, might as well do some more stone gathering and walkway building.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

I own a rusty-orange pair of shorts and one day lily orange tee shirt (which I think makes me look like a gas station attendant or plumber), so not much orange clothing here, either.

But I like orange flowers a lot—plant orange marigolds, lilies, butterfly weed, etc. Or and summer go together. Just not on my body.

Wanda said...

The beautiful orange day lilies really standout and compliment the colors of your blog...I think you achieved an award winning look...the lilies were perfect.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

High praise, indeed! I do thank you.

And you are right, today's post photos certainly pop against the background—which was why I chose a dark neutral to begin with. Autumn leaves ought to look good, too—and practically any bright color bloom, bird, whatever. But it was simply because I've mounted a lot of photos on matt board and always liked the way stuff looked against darker neutrals rather than the standard 18 percent gray that's the usual standard.

I did try and previsualize all this when making the recent template and layout change. But there will likely be future post pixs that don't show nearly as well…especially dark, "moody" ones.

Time will tell…

Jenn Jilks said...

Lovely shots. So nice when 'errands' leave to something with a real purpose! We have some yellows at the back of the house. Too many bugs to visit them much, tho'.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

My life is oft led by serendipity and a penchant for traveling the lesser roads…

By "bugs" would you be referring to those charming northcountry black flies? If so, I can well understand your reluctance to afford them even the slightest chance to mutilate your flesh.

KGMom said...

Scribe--a nice pairing of photo and NT verse. I have always loved the symbolism of "Solomon in all his glory."

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Thank you…although in honesty, an inadvertent connection.

Bernie said...

This has to be one of my favorites of all your post. I love the lilies and your story. The color orange really stands out with your blog background. Glad you used the feminine side of your brain and turned the truck heater on...LOL......:-)Hugs

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Lovely inspiring post, Grizzled! Sometimes when things are grey beauty stands out all the more.

(I love orange, as you would expect - orange flowers, and orange on my body!!)

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-


Wuss!! :-)

Day lillies - oh yes. we are surrounded by them and I love them so. Your photos are SO beautiful and dare I say, may I say, even a bit sensual in their capture of vulnerability.

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Thank you for all your nice words regarding the story and photos. But in the interest of honesty—and undoubtedly to your disappointment of think me to be smarter than the average bear—I must tell you I DID NOT turn on the pickup's heater; testosterone, machismo, male-stupidity, whatever you like, won. (Though the lilies so distracted me from my near-shivers that I forgot to be cold.)

Alas, that is my true confession…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

I love that! "Sometimes when things are grey beauty stands out all the more." It's a true and wonderful life metaphor.

(And yes, I would expect you to like orange, though with those lovely patterns interwoven.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Hey, no guy wants to be a wuss. However, should the Wuss Line be somewhat difficult to detect, I often operate by the "John Wayne Postulation"—i.e., asking and applying to a given situation: "What would John do?" (Would John Wayne turn on a heater in June? No, of course not! John would shiver until his gritted teeth fell out…but he wouldn't touch that heater knob!"

Lilies are sensual, I think. Which is why photographs of them, taken by some of the finest photographers ever (Weston, for example) were often considered risque in shows and exhibitions. I hadn't thought of their vulnerability within the image context before, but I think you're right.

Take care,

giggles said...

Scribe....we all know you're a professional writer...but are you a professional photographer as well? (I mean in your non-bloggy world....) So many fantastic photos....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Yeah…more or less. Though nowadays—because of where my writing interests have taken me (and thus photography) instead of having darkrooms, a dozen Nikon camera bodies and everything from fish-eye to 800mm lenses, plus all the ancillary equipment needed to shoot anything anywhere anytime, I have one camera body and two lenses. I discard about 90 percent of what I shoot.

Nothing you see in this blog is what I'd consider "professional" quality, and certainly nothing required expensive gear or considerable expertise. Good photography is 90 percent eye and brain (visualizing and thinking beforehand) and 10 percent gear.

In any art there is always that measure of artistic talent involved—the God-given DNA-contained factor you can't invent or add-to. That said, you can develop, enhance, guide, train, and build upon whatever talent you have. You can learn to be better, do better work, learn techniques, master your tools, etc. This is true of anyone, at any level, with any gear.

The visual arts requires that you learn to think within visual parameters; understand the value of layout, background, foreground, color, and so on. Again, anyone can do this…if by no other means than simply looking at a lot of good art—good photos, good paintings. The eye can be taught.

So when you ask am I a professional photographer…yes, I've received pay for photographs. I've sold cover shots to magazines; thousands of interior shots (many to illustrate my articles); produced limited-edition prints; taught photography seminars.

Please don't take this as bragging. Please. I'm not. In fact, I debated whether to even answer your question, and certainly how personal to make my reply. But I wanted to be honest.

I don't think of myself as a professional; that's just a line on my letterhead. I'm really nothing special—just a guy with a little bit of talent (at best!) and a camera, making pictures.

giggles said...

Well then. Thanks for your honesty... My dad said once, "When you get paid for something you do, you're a professional." That's what I was gettin' at. Had you been paid for your photography? Got it. And yes, every one could do it if one was so inclined.... I'm a firm believer in aspiring to improve myself just a little bit every day.... I admire you for your pursuit in that regard as well.... Thanks again....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I hate writing about myself; it always sounds so egotistical, like I'm bragging.

The truth is, I just wanted to live my life my way, on the road, outdoors, having adventures and fun—to camp and fish, follow a path, see whatever was downstream, over there, in back of beyond.

I needed a way to finance that life. I've probably had fifty different jobs. But the only thing I'm much good for is writing, taking photos, talking.

I know what you do for a living. I could no more do your job than I could sprout wings and fly. So when I tell you I've sold articles and photos—that I'm a professional—know that I never think of myself in such terms. I'm just an fellow who's rambled about and managed to stay (often barely) on the plus side of the balance sheet.

giggles said...

Honestly? There are more days than not when I no longer feel like a professional at what I do...feeling like it's time to write my "Third Chapter...."

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

In my case, beside some personal issues, I'd reached a point where I found myself doing the things I loved for money instead of pleasure—too often putting the buck before the experience.

I've cooked all my life. And I mean seriously cooked. I'm good at it (too good!) and I love cooking for family and friends and seeing them enjoy a meal. But if I suddenly became a professional cook, asked for and expected dollars for my labor, my focus would necessarily change—I would concentrate on the job versus the personal rewards and pleasures of simply feeding others a delicious, well-prepared meal. Understand?

A lot of my writing and photography began to feel that way to me. So I began to change direction. In the meantime, life helped me along by intervening bigtime. I'm now neither the same writer/photographer I once was…nor the same person. There's a joy back in my life that hasn't been there for a long time; a sense of direction. That quote from Proverbs at the head of my blog is there because it's true—I don't know what a day may bring.

I honestly don't know if I consider myself a "professional" anything any more…in spite of the occasional paycheck. My heart has always beaten best outdoors, in woods and fields, along a stream, under a star-spatterd sky. I need the music of birdsong in my ears and the feel of wind and rain on my cheek. I need to see what's around the bend or over yonder ridge.

More than anything, I'm really just a man following a winding path through an unknown country—making the best of my time, grateful for the adventure, and blessed by the wonder I find along the way.