Considering the Lilies

This month it seemed that everywhere I walked there were day lilies. Huge clumps of them. Each flower so perfect, blooming just for that one day.

I could write reams about day lilies; about their tenacity. Periodically, I’ve tried to remove them from my various gardens, often in favour of something more exotic. But they always return. The deer love them and munch the buds, sometimes before they can open, and yet they always seem to flower. Once, as I was struggling to dig up a particularly deeply rooted patch, my son begged me to keep them, as though they represented something constant in his changing teenage life.

So, over the years I’ve grown to admire their resilience. The transient beauty of each single flower.

It’s been impossible to walk through the village this month without seeing the hundreds of orange ribbons tied to the school fence, or strung out along the boardwalk. Each ribbon representative of a single life, the life of somebody’s beautiful child cut short.

Unlike many others, I confess that I didn’t go into Ottawa on Canada Day to walk in solidarity with the thousands of orange shirted marchers.

Perhaps I rationalised to myself that I was only one person, that my presence or absence would be of little consequence.

Instead, I walked and visited the lilies parading their beauty throughout the village.

I got to thinking about the uniqueness of each bloom. Standing alone. And yet how together they make such a strong visual statement.

I walked beside the La Pêche river and watched the flecks of foam, as they flowed into the Gatineau. Each individual fleck just a spot on the water, but together telling the story of the river, the path of the surface currents normally invisible to the eye.

Early in the summer there was a long dry spell, but finally the rain came. I stood by the river and watched the drops making ripples on the surface. It was another reminder of the power of one. Each drop adding to the volume of water, no drop more or less important than the one before.

As I try to relate the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation report to both my personal and professional life, I am profoundly grateful to the little children found buried at the residential schools. There can be no more hiding. Just like the day lilies’ flowers, the children’s spirits remind me that each life matters. And just like the individual flecks of foam, and drops of rain, each of the children add a voice to the greater truth.

The day lilies are beginning to die back now, there are just a few late bloomers here and there. I look out for them on my walks and promise to listen to their voices. The leaves too will die back soon, but the roots will remain, and the flowers will return next year, and the year after that asking me the same questions. What do you see? What do you hear? What can you learn?

With thanks to Nathalie from Khewa for her willingness to talk to me about the children. Nathalie and her beautiful Canadian-Indigenous gallery and boutique have been a constant presence in Wakefield for twenty years. It was Nathalie who helped me to see that the children have returned to guide us.

Nathalie also reminded me that day lilies are not only beautiful to look at, they also taste delicious.