From the gardens at Crow's Cottage • August 16, 2011
By Ebenezer Baldwin BowlesPosted on August 26, 2011, from rural Washington County, Arkansas
Some short time ago. . . .
I look out the window. The hawk circles, low in the thin sky, hunting. My eyes drift downward to a heart-shaped dogwood of graceful green and pleasant visage. A few yards to the left of its two-branched trunk, on the other side of the pale gray road, I spy a band of lilies, pink and white, swaying in the hot breeze like dancers in a corps de ballet. They are a wonderful late summer surprise.
Their emergence from the parched earth caught me unawares. The first two members of a transient, merry band now numbering in the many glorious dozens appeared on the last day of July as objects of mystery, arising of a sudden from the dark, rocky soil of a little flower patch beside the back fence. I stop at the patch twice each day, sometimes thrice, to water, prune, and admire the marigolds, morning glory, cosmos, and four o'clock growing there. Seeing a pair of strange new creations winding toward the sky from whence, the day before, there was none: Amazing.
As long as a man doth prune his vines,
— Certain Sermons Or Homilies
See them, young and precious, to the right of the text, tall and slender in the photograph. Green magic wands for garden gnomes and fairies, precious gifts from the original animist mother, Gaia.
That night, I asked the mistress of the hacienda if she knew the identity of the new plants. Have you seen them on your sunrise walks with the shepherds? "Yes. They're surprise lilies," she said. "We used to have them at home in the delta. They sprang up everywhere."
We are not there, in the delta . . . .
A moveable feast of natural delights, a creation of the Mind and Spirit grounded in corporeal realities, Crow's Cottage found a new home this past spring on the edge of Wedington Forest — thus the surprise when the lilies emerged. Surprise of this sort comes but one season only. Next summer, when the perennial visitors reappear, the surprise won't be. I'll expect them. Eagerly.
In the study now, following the thread of magic lilies wherever they may lead,
" Whether genera and species do really exist in nature ? or,
— Analysis of Aristotle's Logic
A Patch of Surprise Lilies in Morning Light • August 16, 2011
Yes, but. . . . The taxonomy shown above is the version declared to be correct by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It appears official enough for our purposes here in the laboratory of Crow's Cottage. However, an article on Wikipedia under the title Lycoris squamigera places the plant in the order Asparagales, family Amaryllidaceae. Hence we stumble into another pitfall in the quest for truth. . . . and if not for truth, then for factual clarity.
When the library here at the cottage isn't sufficient, and when we aren't inclined to climb into a vehicle and motor on over to the stacks at the university, a thirty-minute drive to the east, we turn inward to the vast World Wide Web, a wondrous expanse of ready information and delightful diversion, but also a punji pit of delusion, error, misdirection, and foolishness. No wonder Luke tells us to separate the wheat from the chaff, which shall burn with fire unquenchable. One source states this, another source states that. Which source shall the scholar choose to accept as gospel?
So, we take the second thought. Perhaps the serious-minded contributors to Wikipedia are a step ahead of the mainline botanists at USDA, who may ascribe to the adage, "Close enough for government work." Fashions in science change and certitudes in most any discipline fall prey to postmodern relativity. Maybe the order Asparagales, family Amaryllidaceae has superseded the lilies in present-day taxonomical jargon. Doubtless we can find an expert to take the affirmative for either side. But today, trustful, we side with the government men. As for those of you who would say, who cares about such meaningless trivia, I'm convinced you aren't here on this byted page. And to those of you who've come this far, I shout: Thanks for being here now. It's the best you can do to mitigate the obscurity of life on the lam.
Continue, then, the inaccurate discussion, meddled and muddled through 'n through: genera and species, Mind and Nature, inherent and disjoined. So what if I can't run with Aristotle — you know it — can't run with one of the Greats in the Pantheon of the Ancients, can't run with a Mind w a y f a r beyond mine in length, breadth, depth, and reach — any other form of psychic measurement you can lay on the trestleboard and say, "Measure this!" So why try?
"I didn't understand a word of it," she wrote from the little hamlet at the foot of the great mountain, the atoms swirling in concentric circles at her feet, the bumble bees in concert 'round her hair. I've mentioned this before. It haunts me. Why didn't she understand? Don't tell me it's breaking down that quickly, dementia on the half-shell, fragments too disjointed for the conveyance of meaning, conveyor belts dumping words into a purposeless abyss.
Right away, we limit the response to the kingdom of plants — more narrowly and specifically, to just one of its members, Lycoris squamigera. Already in the space of a few paragraphs, we've given the plant three distinct common names: magic lily, surprise lily, and resurrection lily. There are others, too, and some of them fit the taxonomy: autumn lily, rain lily, naked lady. Other published names for Lycoris squamigera are not rightly aligned with botanical fact, including the belladonna lily, Amaryllis belladonna, which is very nearly a mirror image of Lycoris squamigera but somehow deemed by the experts to grow under a different name. I'd need to put them side-by-side in full bloom to discern the difference, but the fair lady of the night is somewhere else, drinking atropine and praying to a merciful god for deliverance from the Second Circle of Hell.
One can argue against the name rain lily because it's more commonly associated with the Cooperia drummondii Herbert, the evening rain lily, a white flower of late summer with tall naked stems. Regardless, we stand by it. Here in the Ozark highlands, the Lycoris squamigera oft emerge from their slumber after a good summer rain, and several of our pals like to call them rain lilies. We, too.
Some web writers include spider lily in the list of names for Lycoris squamigera, a lazy but understandable error. Lycoris radiata, the spider lily, is the surprise lily's closest cousin. I wish they'd come visit our garden.
The relationship between the resurrection lily and the spider lily reveals a fundamental purpose of taxonomy. As Professor Reid writes in his treatise on Logic, "Now, the essence of a thing consists of these two parts: first, What is common to it with other things of the same kind; and, secondly, What distinguishes it from other things of the same kind. The first is called the genus of the thing, the second is its specific difference. The definition, therefore, consists of these two parts." [pp. 37, 38]
Here in the study, over there in the laboratory, out there in the world — Hello World! It's me. I exist. — we are snared by the passion to travel so long and so deep as to arrive at the essence of a thing. It becomes a passion forever unfulfilled, a quest for the ineffable that by nature remains unuttered in both thought and word, but Thanks be to God for His ineffable grace. We continue, n'er give up.
Petals, Stamens, and the Style of the Resurrection Lily
Here on the screen of a monitor,
The Naked Lady's Legs
Have you ever died? If so, you are resurrected. The scenario is unlikely.
My death, our deaths — we are the quick, the only ones able to be here — are psychic events of the spirit and flesh united into a whole being with a Name. We become the ones who die to a corrupted way of life so that another way, a way of promise and freedom, can arise in its place.
And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.
In the vestry sat the pastor at his desk, the children of the catechism at his feet, each with Luther's little book opened to "The Third Article, Sanctification," the pastor saying that when they rolled away the stone door of the tomb He was not there, His body not stolen but resurrected, risen from the dead, alive as God and Man in One. "This is most certainly true," the pastor spoke, and the little ones believed him, marveled at the red-tinted rays of morning light streaming through the stained-glass cloak on the right arm of Jesus Christ inside the tomb, the filtered light in the vestry the color of blood, falling on the pastor's white hair, and Jesus on the glass with a moustache and beard, and flowing hair of auburn brown, His eyes toward the heavenlies, the fingers of His two hands intertwined in prayer and supplication. The pastor called one boy in the cathechism to rise and recite,
Calyces of the Resurrection Lily
Why choose resurrection over surprise as the heading for this tale? Both names are equally valid as the commonplace for Lycoris squamigera. I suppose it's a matter of gravity versus lightness of being, of the heavy heart over light heartedness. So oft I tote the former like a ball and chain into the dark night. No wonder I gravitate toward sharers with a lilt on the tongue and a smile on the lips. I need their cheerful disposition to leaven the seriousness. The bud and the bloom I love in my own way. It works well enough to keep me here, well enough to spite the scathe and its wicked intentions.
Not born again,
A Mighty Trumpet
There is room for not much more, little room for more, no space left to discover a hidden law of nature in the life of the lily. I have meddled enough with difficult questions and the limits of language. These, then, are my pictures of flowers, the altering of perception, not the corporeal reality inherent in the things out there in the garden, but a disjoined notion of it in here in the study, where the words crawl bit-by-bit across the screen, jumping up, jumping down, never seeing ink, and where the images lie flat and distorted in their confinement, where the colors bend and shape like phantoms escaping from an unreal spectrum, and where each and all exist as impermanent expressions of the cosmos, as ephemeral as the light of a single day, and as imperfect as the ability of language to express the soul of man.
Magic Lilies and Sunset of a Sort
Post Script: Quick they came. Quick they went. The first resurrection lily broke ground at Crow's Cottage on the last day of July. Rising from my chair here in the study on the twenty-fifth day of August, I look outside — and the lilies are gone. Under the earth, the bulbs await their next resurrection. I pray to be the witness.
Swan Lake • 1977
L I N K S
Meet me, Mr. I. Magination. . . .
Carl Maximowicz (Maxim.)
PLANTS Profile: Lycoris squamigera Maxim.
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Friday, August 26, 2011