Thursday, August 13, 2009

When the Resurrection Lilies Bloom

(A preliminary chronicle of yesterday): A bad awakening at 5:00 a.m. General anxiety about sickness, old age, and death, like a cloud of gnats around me. Flew out the door to talk to a good friend over an emergency breakfast. Later in the day talking to Tom and crying with frustration when my daughter called. She wanted to know if I had ever made zucchini patties, but was more than willing to talk about This Health Thing, about nuclear stress tests and transplant. Husband, friend, daughter, all are intelligent, practical people who listen and say what they think. I am very lucky to have three such people like that in my life. It added up to calming me enough to go out for Jade Scallops at Pacific Eatery. They use fresh broccoli and real scallops, and are not stingy with them. Then nine hours sleep - the most healing thing in the world. I fondly remembered Shakespeare's line -
Sleep, that knits the raveled sleeve of care.
Usually, I sleep seven hours. Nine hours gives me one more crucial sleep cycle full of resolving dreams. Then a long, slow awakening, not snapping to. It is a beautiful morning, so I thought of Hopkins' poem, "God's Grandeur" -

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

So happy to have poetry stored in my mind.

We took our coffee out to the screened porch. Then I decided to meditate on the patio, I guess you'd call it, a nice old rumpled area of brick leading into the back yard. I decided to do the kind of meditation I think of as contemplation, just being with nature. In the back yard, the resurrection lilies are in bloom.

I don't think there's a way to take a photo of them that would convey what there is. Imagine a heavily wooded yard that slopes down on one side to the next lot. Going down from the middle of the lot and curving around, the lilies.

I didn't know what resurrection lilies were until we moved into our first house. Our next-door neighbor, Kay, had lived in her house sixty years, and the yard was overgrown with classic perennials. She pointed out her lilies to me when they bloomed. They are quite unlike the daylilies that naturalize around here, and the showy hybrids people buy at Oakland Nursery, in that the leaves come up in early summer, show no bloom, and die back.

Then one morning you get up and pink lilies are cascading down your yard on tall, leafless stems. The name "Resurrection" is so apt - they are always a delightful surprise. We drive through our neighborhood, Clintonville, during the week or two that this is going on, and point them out to each other, patches of pink lily on a devil's strip or in a yard, left over from some previous landscaping.

I sat on the patio looking at them and thought with gratitude about the "old people" who once lived here and put in a great many plants. It must have been a lot of work, planting those lilies; lily bulbs have to be planted rather deep. Those who built this dwelling and lived in it must be dead now, but they left behind this amazing gift.

Often I picture karma as a long, hand-woven river of fiber, with many little strands of thread in every color entering and going through it. Here is our woods, giant oak trees that nobody cut down. Through them are threaded old flagstone walks which the neighborhood cats always use in preference to walking on dirt, and on which the groundhog sits to eat the attractive weeds that grow alongside. This time of year there is no color but green, and today white clouds and blue sky. One day of real summer, at last, a perfect day. Woven through this green and blue, the pink lilies. They display because that's what they do. Long before I knew what a Buddhist was, I had a little sign in my kitchen that said, "Bloom where you are planted." It seemed sort of sentimental, but I liked it anyway.

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