Sunday, August 21, 2011


TODAY BIRDLAND IS PLEASANTLY OVERCAST. The sun winks through grey cloud cover once in awhile. I stepped out to grab the laundry off the line and saw constellations of dark raindrops in the dust. But when I reached the laundry, it was no more damp than this morning's dew had left it. (Yes, I left it out all night. Again.) We got rain last week, but the parched earth swallowed it up and asks for more. I've always liked this kind of sky once in awhile. It feels a bit like the protective feeling you get walking under an umbrella, or sitting in a tent listening to the gentle rhythm of raindrops. I'm hoping that gentle rhythm will come soon. I rigged up a hopeful mini-rainbarrel—the bucket from an old dehumidifier under the downspout to siphon water through a garden hose into my little pond, which is going dry.
 The Ghost Lilies, which have been reticent this summer—only a few blooming in stunted fashion here and there—had a party after last week's rain. They have popped up from all their secret spots, soft pink clusters of trumpets calling the bees with their gentle fragrance. They remind me that it's time to indulge my fascination with them—the ultimate reminder of invisible, subterranean forces that eventually blossom. I hope you are not tired of hearing about Ghost Lilies by now, because I'm not sure I'll ever be through with them.

Do you remember them? They have many names, and I've collected a few new to me in the past couple of years: Magic Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Vacation Lilies, Resurrection Lilies, Naked Ladies. They are like pale pink Amaryllis, emerging in the spring as a nubbin the size of your thumb—a tight bundle of leaves lined up like the pages of a tiny, green book. Then they grow like Jack's beanstalk, inches per hour, until they are a like a giant spray of leaves of grass, up to your knees. Except for their growth rate, they are unremarkable, just naked leaves that bravely collect sunshine for a few weeks, then, as suddenly as they came, they collapse in a yellowed heap and disappear until you see no trace, even of the wilted leaves.

We go about our summer business—weeding the garden, repairing the chicken coop, driving kids to soccer practice and swimming pools, paying bills, working, peeling peaches, trying to keep cool—and forget all about those green leaves. Then one day, when you least expect it, you walk out to the chicken coop with a scoop of food in each hand and there comes the first Ghost Lily of the summer. It wasn't there yesterday, and now it is. No leaves, only a crisp stalk with a tight cluster of elegant, long buds, like fingers. Tomorrow they will be twice as tall, and open into pink bells, long slender stamens topped with anthers full of golden pollen. One long pistil waits for the bee. Tomorrow, more stalks with more buds will follow, but look deep into the blossom. Down in the center of the bell the pink fades to a bright yellow, as if a golden light is shining up the stalk with fiber optics. And who's to say it isn't? Do we know what goes on deep in the earth in that secret bulb below? Something magical and transformative. I once dug a bunch of Ghost Lilies to spread around the yard and was surprised at how deeply I had to dig to find the bulbs. More than a foot. I was surprised at how crisp and bright the bulbs were, all the way through. (I had cut some with my shovel.)

Now play the part of the bee. Put your nose right into the bouquet and breathe in. The flower will give you a gift of fragrance and dust your nose with golden pollen. Let's sing a song of gratitude to the flower, the bee, the darkness and the light. Each part of the cycle is important, especially, perhaps, the quiet, dark, underground part. Gathering thoughts, sunshine, beauty, fragrance, creativity—ready to emerge when you least expect it.

Gather Beauty; Inhale Peace; Blessed Be.

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