Monday, July 13, 2009


"And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey ... So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted."
Exodus, 16

So, Bill's new obsession is daylilies. You should come see. This is the second summer for a lot of them and they're filling out and getting wonderful. I don't have him here for quick reference, but I think there are around 80 in the garden now and several queued up in the garage for planting this week. Some 40 of them are currently in bloom.

Many of them are the most elaborate flowers I've ever seen. Showier than orchids. Ruffled, variegated, single, double. Their colors range from the palest pink to the blackest maroon. Some have different colored "eyes." Some are a single glorious shade. Some are fragrant like nectar. Some smell like something delicously alive and clean but nothing more. All have names. Like "Shores of Time" or "Ed Brown." Bill's recitation of their names is a daily liturgy.

Each one is a miracle you can hold in your hand. Every bloom thrives for a day and is gone the next morning. It's kind of painful. We've tried gathering them up and bringing them in. They're lovely at night fall and
by morning have turned into something totally goopy and disgusting.

They are manna. Sufficient to nourish a soul one day at a time, then gone.

Therefore, in the evening, Bill goes around and picks off the spent blossoms, that are really at their peak. He tosses them into a bucket and that's it on them. Before he does that, though, we pass them back and forth and inhale their beauty. Trying to glean maximum enjoyment before they're gone. Then the slate is clean. Ready for a new morning of fresh bloom.

I am not a Biblical scholar by any means, but the metaphor of manna has always interested me. Touched me, I guess. To me it's the very paradigm of trust, which is a commodity I'm very low on a lot of the time. The Israelites were under a lot of stress in the wilderness, and they freaked out about a lot of stuff, annoying Moses and undoubtedly trying the patience of God. They tried to hoard up the manna for the desert version of a rainy day, and the leftover portion turned nasty very fast. They had to learn to take what they needed and trust in providence to provide for later. (Hey! Providence. Provide. I never noticed that before. What was I thinking?)

The Buddhists have that whole attachment concept, which is the same idea with a slightly different spin. It is our clinging that causes suffering. Our desire for every beautiful thing to last, when no beautiful thing ever can. For although the day lilies are extreme in their fleeting span, their wisdom applies to everything that blooms in the garden. Here today. Gone before we're ready.

This is the pitfall of living a human lifetime in such a magnificent world. We can't fully appreciate the beauty without seeing the fading, can't love summer without noticing how fast it goes.

We are commanded by the nature of the universe to live fully in each moment. To hold the lily and breathe in its loveliness so deeply and completely that we can toss it away without regret.

Tall order. Big challenge. Always worth a try.

And no kidding. Stop by and visit Billy's lilies. They're only here for a little while.

July 13, 2009

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