The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


There are so many spiders everywhere, and this time of year, in fall, many of those spiders are busy building webs everywhere.  Once we had a home in a forest and when we would walk down the paths we learned to take a stick to wave in front of us to clear away webs we could not see because of the shade of the trees.  Where there is sunlight, the webs glisten as a breeze blows them, a magical effect.

My personal reaction to spiders is both fascination and fear.  They are many times beneficial in snaring harmful bugs, that is, bugs harmful to humans.  On the other hand, some spiders are themselves harmful to humans.  It’s one of those human versus nature situations.

 But there is another kind of spider that I love beyond all reason, a flowering bulb called a spider lily.  Their botanical name is lycoris, and oh, how exotic and lovely they are.    In addition to loveliness, the other great characteristic spider lilies have is that they are quite tough.  As with all other flowers in the plant kingdom, they have certain climate limitations of heat and cold, and requirements of shade or sun, but being bulbs, they have certain resources that mere ordinary plants do not always have, and if one is lucky and planting ‘spidies’ where they are happy, they come back to us again and again.    Not knowing what the exact perfect spot would be for my spidies, I have planted them in three or four locations in the garden. And according to differences of light and all that, they seem to bloom at slightly different times, which prolongs their presence in the garden.

My very favorite is the red spider lily, lycoris radiata, probably because it was the color I first saw.  Now we have a pink variety, the squamigera, that blooms in August, and a golden yellow color, lycoris aurea, that blooms right about now, too.  I love them all.  To paraphrase a song from “Finian’s Rainbow”, “when I’m not near the bloom I love, I love the bloom I’m near.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Folks all over the world have heard by now that a clever child in Texas built a clock and took it to school to share it with his teacher, and the situation exposed the level of xenophobia that is on many surfaces of our society.

Xenophobia is defined as an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.  And the incredible irony about the level of xenophobia exhibited in this country, America, at various times in our history, is that it is at conflict with so much of our country’s character and habits.  For instance, we love Greek salads, we love pizza and pasta, we love Chinese buffets, we love French fries, we love tacos and quesadillas, we have Thai restaurants and a long list of other cuisines.  And Americans love to travel; they are found all over the world, risking their lives on Everest, paddling down the Amazon River, on safari (hopefully photo safari) in Africa.

But let a gentle fourteen year old boy be so clever as to build his own clock, a device which was readily identifiable within minutes of being viewed, and a true mess erupts.   Now the world has seen that same fourteen year old child handcuffed and arrested.   The good news is that this young child has been offered a full scholarship at a well-reputed scientific-based school and has received encouragement from many different, local, and influential sources such as our President and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The unfortunate news is that the school where this happened did nothing to protect the child, and the town where this happened is managed by a mayor and apparently a police chief who cannot admit that they erred.

This young man is of the Muslim faith, a fact which should make no difference whatsoever in how he was treated.  Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims all embrace faith in their religions.

Faith is defined in the dictionary as “a strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence.”   Another young man, dealing with lack of acceptance by his own Catholic religion because he is gay, described faith this way:  “Faith is that hope for something better.”  We must hope for something better not only for these two young men, but for ourselves and our planet.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


The other morning a butterfly had found its way into the garden room and was clinging to the screen.  At first we feared it had died.  First we carefully opened the screen on the right side, but it didn’t move.  Then we gently nudged it with the finger of a garden glove and off it flew, but not before we captured it in a photograph.  We treasure the birds, butterflies and bees that come around our garden.  We put out bird seed, and we try to plant flowers that will attract butterflies and bees, because all of these creatures help our environment flourish.  And I expect that gardeners in so many parts of the world feel the same about the beneficial creatures that flourish around them.  In fact, gardeners by the very nature of their passion must care about the earth as they deal with plants and creatures and the weather.

Doesn’t that make it all the more strange that when human creatures encounter unbearable environments and seek to find sanctuary, some whole societies refuse to help.  Refusing to help is one thing, but abuse of desperate people as seen on the news over and over again, is inexplicable.   There have been so many instances in history of people having to leave their homeland because of so many reasons, but the primary reason is usually other people.  Our beloved country, the United States, cannot present itself as a sterling example of how to treat desperate refugees, but we must surely find it in ourselves to begin caring about and for the desperate of this world.

When I think of the fact that in all likelihood the old had to be left behind in war-torn places such as Syria and in the troubled countries of South America because they couldn’t endure the travel, and that the strong and the young have had to leave everything behind, endure the terrors of small boats on the open seas, endure horrific loss of life, endure bad weather and all that goes with walking for too many miles without food or water or anyplace to rest but the bare ground or the concrete of cities – when I think then that people who have endured all that and still find mistreatment instead of assistance – then I do wonder what is to become of all of the rest of us.

Because if we cannot summon the humanity to help each other, if we cannot summon the common sense to use negotiation to settle differences instead of using war, and if we cannot open our eyes and see what is happening to the climate of our planet, why, then, my photograph of a butterfly will become a rare thing indeed.