by Audrey Y. Scharmen
The Leyle is an herbe whyth a whyte floure. And though the levys of the floure be whyte: yet shyneth the lykeness of gold.
That first virginal lily is said to have evoked such jealousy in Aphrodite, who claimed issue from the whiteness of sea foam, that she had a golden pistil set in the center of the flower. Lilies come now in every color, but they still tote that pistil.
A lily came to me at Christmas from a friend. I was pleased, but skeptical, as I gazed at the plastic pot where a ragged circle of flower-flesh protruded from gray parched soil. I am not skilled at nurturing lifeless things: They need to be green and abloom when they fall into my hands. Even so, their survival rate will be low.
The instructions that came with her suggested she have some sun and be watered sparingly. Come midwinter, she would rise and bloom suddenly and dramatically. Sure she will, I mused, and I put her on a windowsill in the keeping room, a cool place with morning sunlight. And there she sat, abandoned, well into the new year.
No sun came and winter turned cruel. Eagles drove our winter flock of buffleheads and other sea ducks from the creek outside my window where they fed. Diving and swooping low each morning, the big birds so terrified them that they took flight in great disorderly groups and were gone. The creek was barren, green ice crept across the water and the cold settled in with vengeance.
The lily shivered on the sill and showed no signs of doing anything dramatic. I gave her a sip of water and let her be.
There came snow, a howling blizzard with sculpted drifts that covered the windows. A total eclipse of the moon occurred during a brief pause in the storm, casting a copper glow to add to the eerie drama of winter gone mad. Ice followed to sheathe the shore in deadly glass and blow low the trees. With some help from the sun, bands of squirrels appeared the morning after to dismantle the Russian scene with a kind of fury, scurrying about the limbs and filling the air with small glittering explosions. By the time of the rosy sunset, the trees had regained dignity and the events of the past weeks seemed a fantasy.
And there came February. She: the lull between the fierceness of winter and the gentleness of spring. She: born on the cusp with bewildering traits of both seasons.
She banished the snow, and Canada geese came to dine on green grass shoots beneath the paulowinia tree beside the creek. A trio of mute swans flew low over the water, necks stretched to full length, like sleek white arrows shot from Cupids bow. Obviously they were engaged in some sort of mating ritual, as there was much quarreling and hostility in the pursuit. (It is said, you know, that birds begin to pair off on Valentines Day.)
The sea ducks returned without the eagles, and all appeared normal on the shore for the season. The lily had produced a tiny tip of a bud, its sepals pulsating gold peering shyly from the bulb-nest. And snowdrops bloomed outside the window: Fair maids of February, heralds of flowers, symbol of hope.
Then came snowflakes like pale petals drifting from the sky. Lazily, charmingly, hypocritically.
For her Bay Reflections, Scharmen, of Lusby, has taken first prize two years running in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association editorial competition for Local Column.