The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Monday, July 27, 2015


The last two summers past, and now this summer, leave me wondering seriously why would anyone go to the trouble of gardening?  It isn’t that we have an elegant or extensive garden.  It is fairly small, and problems with the soil make it easier to grow some plants in pots.  Other plants are grown in pots because they are too vigorous for a small garden and can literally be contained by being pot-grown (did I mention crinums?).

And that’s another thing I’ve found:  either plants grow almost too well and too vigorously, or they don’t grow at all.  Or if plants do grow a bit, then they are not happy and stop growing and eventually just give up, about the same time I do.

But all of that is part and parcel for gardening, just the experiences of what plants will and will not do.  No, the concerns we are finding now have to do with the total environment in which we garden:  now, in the summers, for so many days it is 100 degrees or close enough; plants are supposed to need at least an inch of water a week and we haven’t had any rain in over three weeks and no rain is expected; we have to put sunscreen on, even on cloudy days because the earth’s ozone sun filter is thinning; for the past few years, the West Nile virus, carried by mosquitoes, has prevented us from sitting outside in the evenings and if we do venture out, we must use a bug repellent to ‘save our lives’.  Because it is so hot, we must rise before sunrise to get tasks done outside, and the rest of the day we are exhausted.


So I look out the window at flowers blooming.  I stand in the garden room with the screen doors closed against bugs and smell the scents of summer phlox and crape myrtles.  And, like every other gardener, I think about what needs to be done next in the garden, and I dream that next year will be better.  Without that dream, why would we, or anyone, garden?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Babysitting is probably an odd term to apply to experiences with drivers one encounters on freeways and interstates, and indeed sometimes local streets.  But ‘babysitting’ is the word I learned to apply to driving experiences many years ago when my job sent me to work in the downtown area.  At first, for a year, I drove the slow way with many traffic lights, because it had been many years since my work had taken me that far away from home.  After awhile, my courage increased and I began driving into town on the freeway, which is an inaccurate term if I ever heard one.  Free, maybe because there is no toll, but definitely not free of movement.

Anyway, at first I was truly shocked at the behavior of so many of the drivers on the freeway.  Carelessness with speed limits and changing lanes and signaling had certainly multiplied in the previous decades.  Ah, but eventually I developed the philosophy of ‘babysitting’ many of my fellow drivers:  trying to figure out if they were going to change lanes even if they did not signal; trying to move out of their way if they insisted on ‘tailgating’ (following me way too closely); in effect, being ‘motherly’ toward them, because goodness knows they needed it.  Foolish behavior was not limited to the very young; it included all ages and all sexes.

But developing the ‘babysitting’ philosophy somehow makes the two of us more observant, more polite and patient, more resigned to sometimes ridiculous or aggressive behavior.  And it works, whether we deal with those driving local roads on the phone or running red lights, or on the freeway, driving too fast or not signaling lane changes.  “Poor things,” we say to ourselves, “they don’t know how to use their turn signal.”   Of course they do, but we pretend, in order to explain their idiocy.  In fact, pretending is a good way to get through a lot of concerns and problems, and not just on the road.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


So when we married, many years ago, we had very little money, so little money that after paying for a small bakery cake and assembling the ingredients for a wine punch, we had to save what money was left for a brief wedding trip, and could not buy fresh flowers for the cake table.  So the mother of my husband’s best friend picked all the flowers in her flower beds, which were Shasta daisies, and that was what the wife of the best friend used to decorate.  Ever since then, I have been particularly fond of daisies.  Daisies are so cheerful, so sturdy, so encouraging and generous with themselves.  We have always tried to have some daisy plants wherever we have lived; some years they have bloomed profusely, other times not, but this year they are exuberant. 


And then there are dahlias.  Dahlias were plants I only heard of once in a funny, silly TV series where one of the characters grew them, but no one I knew grew them, and I never really saw a dahlia in person until the orange dahlia I planted as an experiment bloomed.  I had had a weak and/or wild moment while reading a bulb catalog and spotted this particular dahlia’s photo, and it looked much like a zinnia, and I love zinnias, so I ordered the dahlia.  Since then I have also tried dwarf dahlias and, this year, a miniature heirloom dahlia. 


Yesterday I was strolling around the garden with some brand new small pruners I recently acquired, deadheading here, pulling a weed there, and there were the daisies and dahlias all abloom.  So I cut some and brought them in for the dining table, just a few in a small budvase.    Looking at them in the vase, it occurred to me that they more or less represented both the real beginning of my life as an adult and the life I’m grateful to have had since the beginning of our marriage.   The daisies represent the innocence and ignorance of my youth; the dahlias could represent a lot about the years since then, the expectations and errors, and ultimately the willingness to accept life as it is and see what beauty I can find.  And there is always so much beauty we can find, if we look.