Jim McGuire: Time and lilies

It wasn’t a planned outing—more an impromptu sidetrack.

I was cruising along the local township road in no particular hurry. My mind idled in that nether-mode of disengaged sentience.

In truth, I was halfway trying to ignore my immediate surroundings because the landscape was too familiar.

I grew up nearby—a couple miles distant as the crow flies. This was my old territory, the world of my youth. Its borders extended in a radius as far as I could peddle my red Schwinn Phantom. Aboard that balloon-tired steed, and afoot, I’d explored, investigated, and blithely trespassed on practically every acre. Planted fields, fallow meadows, tangled fencerows, overgrown woodlots.

Nobody got upset. In those days, it was expected adventurous boys would do such things. Their roaming curiosity was considered harmless.

That was, of course, a long time ago. A different era, possibly a different galaxy. Definitely old history.

Nevertheless, if I paid too much attention to the view beyond the windshield, I’d start remembering and ultimately wallow in memories best saved for a dark and cold winter’s night—not a sunny, steamy-hot morning in June!

Nope—I didn’t want to conjure up the past.

Of course, about 10 seconds later, I ignored my self-admonishment and pulled off the road near the end of a low bridge, which crosses a jump-across Wolf Creek tributary. Underneath this span lies what Dad and I called the Minnow Hole. It’s where we always came to seine bait for fishing.

Countless crappie expeditions began with a visit to the Minnow Hole. And the elongated, rock-bottomed pool—thigh-deep, perhaps a dozen feet wide and twice that length—never failed to supply our needs.

I parked and made my way around the concrete abutment and down the loose bank, into the shadows under the bridge. As I carefully picked my way over the rubble, something in my chest tightened then went soft. I had to blink several times.

Just a reaction to the dramatic light change. At least that’s what I told myself as I found a handy seat on a limestone slab near the water’s edge.

After a while my eyes adjusted to the dimness. I saw flashes of numerous tiny baitfish darting to and fro in the depths.

Oh-ho! The Minnow Hole was still the place where a fellow could—with a dip net or seine—easily fill a bait bucket!

I pondered how time washes some things away while allowing others to endure. And I had to blink some more…pollen, or maybe dust from the road.

Looking upstream, I noticed both banks were covered in a riot of day lilies. Orange, trumpet-shaped flowers glowed like jewels.

The ubiquitous orange day lily (Hemerocallis fulva) isn’t a true lily since its grows from a root mass rather than a bulb. Originating in Asia, they were introduced in North America by European colonists who knew them as easy-to-grow perennials.

Like any number of imported plants, they soon jumped the garden fence. Wild and fancy-free escapees, quickly spreading.

Day lilies aren’t fussy. They appear along roadways and drainage areas, at sites which receive even a modest amount of morning or afternoon sunlight, thriving in soil that’s rich or poor, so long as it’s moist but well-drained.

Prolific, easy-going and incredibly lovely naturalized citizens.

Yet there are those unappreciative types who refer to the orange day lily as an invasive weed. Equally disrespectful is the oft-heard name “ditch lily.”

My father was always fond of orange day lilies. And he disliked their lack of respect.

Whenever we happened upon a full-blooming patch, he was apt to quote that verse from Matthew, which begins, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…”

Looking, first at me, then at the lilies, he would shake his head in puzzlement. “How can anyone fail to admire such beauty?”

He finished the quote to conclude his case. “Even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.”

Dad knew his Bible. And he’d earned a degree in botany during his university years. The school teacher in him wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to impart what he deemed a worthwhile lesson—and he regularly employed quotes from poems, literature, or the Scriptures to emphasize his point.

I’m forever thankful. I’ve never forgotten those moments. His love and wisdom shaped and carried me throughout the years and trials.

Dad taught me the joy of small things, the wonderment of nature, the reasons and need to cherish life.

Lilies, he said, were symbols of hope—a commodity we all need replenishing from time to time.

June is ending, July waiting to begin. Find a patch of orange day lilies. Admire their beauty. And never lose hope.