Church Lilies

Here is an essay I wrote several years ago and which comes to mind each year at this time, now with summertime arriving.

The first lily in the lily patch bloomed sometime in the night. Now it is morning and I sit on the step in front of the house, still in pajamas, having my coffee. I lean forward, stretching my back contentedly, elbows on knees, coffee cup resting in the larger cup of my facing palms, fingers near its rim, thumbs meeting below my chin. I take small sips of hot sweet coffee more desirable because outdoors.

The darkness of the coffee in the cup might reflect what I see looking up: the bright cloud, slender moon and, in the shadow of our pine hedge to the left of the sidewalk, the first lily, open–the first, that is, of the church lilies.

After last year’s Easter services were over and the lilies given in memory of loved ones had finished their blooming and been quietly removed from the sanctuary, I brought them home. Here I took them from their pots wrapped in purple foil, some pots adorned with bows of satin ribbon. I planted them just this side of the hedge. Nearby, in fact, just across the walk and clustered around the lamp post is a stand of daylilies. They have been blooming now for a week–lively orange and red and gold freely tangled with brome grass. I call them my wild unchurched lilies.

By contrast, this chaste white bloom on its upright stalk is rather staid. Later I will go to it and stoop to breathe the fragrance of Easter once again as in the old church. The church has only a small congregation; this very lily likely was brought there in memory of someone I loved, too. In memory, we say, as though but for our remembering they would not be near. They are near even if,  and even as,  we ourselves go on–working in our garden, or tasting the day’s first goodness. At least, that is what I think, here on the front step watching the moonlight give way to sunlight in my cup.

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