Hemerocallis fulva - commonly called Orange Daylily or Ditch Lily is blooming now. And while each flower lasts only one day, the blooms are staggered over a period of two to three weeks, which makes for a lovely summer presence.
News to me: this rather invasive plant (we all have our detractors) is enjoyed seemingly everywhere. On a Ditch Lily website people have chimed in to share their Ditch Lily experiences from almost all of the fifty states. Some folks have shared observations about Ditch Lilies from The United Kingdom, Canada and China!
Once planted, if even carelessly, daylilies will spread by underground roots. And since they don't propagate by seeds, if you see them growing somewhere, know that someone (even a long time ago) planted them there. More often than not, zooming by, we notice them as a large or long patch of bright roadside orange. Many people have no idea what the one-day flowers look like close up.
But for all the ordinary, there's a lot of message in the daylily: Much of life is loss, so let's pay attention. Remember Joni Mitchell's 1970's song: They Paved Paradise. "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone..."
Sometimes the loss starts before we even get started. As a brand-new priest I walked in the door of my first-assignment-rectory and the pastor was standing there, who clearly was alcoholic. That night at dinner I realized he was a nasty, broken, bruising alcoholic. Talk about the loss of an ideal. A joy stealer. A dream smasher. A month later the church was broken into and my antique, sterling silver ordination chalice was stolen. The detective said the next morning: "Don't bother, it's already melted down."
Jesus understood how loss-permeating life is: his security was taken away as an infant and his family had to flee to Egypt for safety, he was separated from Mary and Joseph for three days at age twelve, he taught about God through parables of loss: lost boy, lost coin, lost sheep (Luke 15).
We can lose: a pregnancy, a parent or child, a friend, a job or income, our faith, our self-confidence, our sense of meaning or purpose, our life-direction. We can lose our way even with a GPS. We can lose our keys, the remote, our wallet, our glasses, the book we were reading, the password, we can lose love in a marriage. We lose patience. Sometimes we say in exasperation: I'm losing my mind.
Loss can cause us to become depressed, anxious, frustrated, cursing-angry, cynical, or conversely, persevering, enduring, grateful, hopeful. We all make our choices.
The bright Orange Daylily summons: pay attention in the losses.
Pay attention to how I respond.
Pay attention to what might be learned.
Pay attention to gratitude.
Pay attention to how I might change or evolve.
Pay attention to how I might serve in love.
Pay attention to what needs to be healed within.
Pay attention to how close God is.
In color symbology/psychology, the color orange signifies emotional strength in difficult times. Orange assists people in grief recovery. It is the color of optimism, rejuvenation and spirit. As it is the color of a golden fruit it is celestial, symbolizing perfection and eternity. Didn't the nation get a big dose of lived-orange this past week?
Nine members of the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina were murdered by a racist gunman at a Wednesday night bible study. Among them, an elder parish matriarch, the parish pastor, a young man just graduated form college, a town librarian, a track coach and a woman who had just started her retirement - all killed. Out of their loss, relatives publicly spoke words of forgiveness to the young man who had murdered their loved ones and assaulted their community. The following Wednesday, the bible study group, usually no more than twenty people, gathered in the same room where the murders had taken place. But now over a hundred people gathered, too many for the room where the prayer normally takes place.
In their brightness orange daylilies call us to attentiveness. In their short, seems-like-loss, sunrise to sunset existence they invite us to discover what matters: gratitude, hope, care, the heavenly, delight, healing and each other.
I sure hope you see some Orange Daylilies soon!