ditch lily aspirations

In New England, we have these orange daylilies that are pretty ubiquitous in the summer. They pop up all kinds of places: yards, abandoned lots, fields…and they’re especially common growing in ditches along the sides of back roads. A lot of people actually call them ‘ditch lilies’ for exactly that reason.

My neighbor hates ditch lilies. He has several flower gardens around his house that he tends meticulously, and one of his spring rituals is to find and dig up any ditch lilies that have somehow found their way into his beds. They grow via bulbs, but sometimes they don’t all come up at the same time, so it often takes years of successive diggings to get them all out. The last three springs since we moved here, I’ve watched him ferret out any burgeoning patches of ditch lilies and carefully dig all around them. He pops the whole clod of soil out, (presumably so to not further spread the lily bulbs), loads them into his wheelbarrow, wheels them down to where our driveways merge together, and dumps them down over the bank toward the brook.

The thing about ditch lilies is, they can grow just about anywhere. They need barely any dirt, they don’t need a ton of direct light, they’re pretty drought-resistant. There also happens to be a really nice layer of mulch in the form of wood chips from last year’s fallen tree that was cut down, chipped, and the chips dumped along that bank. So this year, right at the juncture of his driveway and ours, we now have a big cheerful new stand of ditch lilies from all the clods of bulbs he’s been dumping over that bank for the last few years.

I do kind of wonder if he glares at them every time he comes down his driveway, or if he’s fine with them as long as they’re not in his flower beds. Either way, I appreciate the symbolism: something discarded and unloved thrown into challenging circumstances takes root, rises up, and flourishes, waving its bright orange flowers at its oppressor on a daily basis, as if to say “you can’t keep me down, fucker”.

We could all use some help in the resilience department these days. May you find the ability to root where you’re thrown, rise up again, and tilt your face to the sun with a smile while knowing those fuckers can’t keep you down.

I’m a writer, Jim, not a photographer. But you get the gist.

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