It was dusk: cloud stacks slowly encroached upon fluid fields of peach and aquamarine washes, resembling the insides of summer’s richness. Stillness wafted upon southern breezes that felt like a newborn’s breath.

I stopped walking.

Ahead, the serpentine path slithered alongside undulating hillocks shimmering with emerald-grasses. Occasional peeps heightened the drama of the fading light.

Within a stand of rough-barked honey locust trees, glowing flashes darted here, there; then, behind me. Suddenly, other summers from childhood engulfed me. Alone, away from whooping kids playing kick-the-can on our street, I held the mayonnaise jar in perspiring hands and trained my eyes for the next blip of light. I would catch one of them. Within this pursuit a shimmering darkness assuaged my loneliness. I could breathe.

Such inexplicable events occur in the in-between-times of our lives, satiate our senses, nurture our spirits, and bond us in communion. Indeed, all is well!

 

For several weeks, tiger lilies have been blooming. Talk of the Town, a popular species in our neighborhood, flourishes along fences and side gardens. Morning breezes excite their six-sculpted petals trembling with stamens and pistils; their orangeness ushers in summer’s brash colors.

Tiger lilies have been around for a long time. Tenth-century Chinese literature describes them planted in rows and cultivated for herbs and food. They also appear in the 1753 Species Plantarum, by Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician, and one of the fathers of modern ecology.

And in 1804, William Kerr traveled to Canton, China, and brought tiger lilies to Britain for the formal gardens of country estates, and from there, to they came America.

Looking deeper, we find this ordinary perennial rooted within the mystery of life and death. We, too, have a similar rootedness. How many springs have we experienced, only to move into still another summer, followed by autumn, and winter? Only to be restored, once again, by the fresh orangeness of tiger lilies glistening with morning dew.

 

 

So exclaimed Mary R Woodard (no period after the letter R), her body broken by decades of washing, ironing, and cleaning for others in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child she hunkered down in a ditch in Christian County, Kentucky, and watched her twenty-year-old uncle lynched for looking at a white woman. Following her move North as part of the Great Migration, her experience of racism morphed into “bitter with sweet meanness.” Psalm 37 protected her gentle spirit from its contagion.

 Into Mary’s life came another outsider, Jane Ellen Ibur, a toddler living in an affluent home with a swimming pool. Screaming battles with her parents led her to seek Mary’s bosom, in their basement where she ironed.

This little girl subsequently became a teacher and a poet who honored her mentor in this poetic memoir, both wings flappin’, still not flyin’ (2014). Their mutual selflessness defies words: Mary’s habitual recourse to God and Jane’s care of her the last eleven years of her life—such reveals the brilliance of the Sacred Feminine.

We learn from them.

 

Available on Amazon

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