The Language of Lilies and Wishes

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By Wendy Hodge
July 08, 2020


If you look at a map of Georgia, somewhere in the south central part of the state, you will see a tiny dot that represents the city of Sycamore. What you won’t see just by looking at a map is the oasis of beauty that brings folks from all over the country to that tiny little town – Bell’s Daylily Garden. I could tell you that it is a family-owned business run by a daylily breeder and
expert that is open to the public for viewing and for buying hundreds of varieties of daylilies.

What I can’t begin to tell you with mere words is the staggering beauty of every inch of its many acres. My best friend and I spent a Saturday there recently, and I can state with confidence that I am absolutely addicted to and in love with day lilies. Up until just a few weeks ago, I’d never really
given lilies much thought. I’ve always liked flowers. Who doesn’t? They all blended together, though, in my mind… just a lot of pretty colors. Turns out I was only seeing them with my eyes, but at Bell’s I opened my heart to these lovely gifts of nature.

When we arrived at the garden, we were given a catalog that lists each variety by name. And the names are like music: Christmas in Oz, Big Boy Butterfly, Biting Pumpkins, Watermelon Summer…. A list of over 900 varieties!

Row after row of lilies stand next to each other, swaying slightly, like ladies all dressed up at a ball waiting their turn to dance. Walking between the rows, no one moves quickly. In fact, it’s impossible to do so because with every step you are gifted with another dazzling beauty. The colors are layered and vivid, some dark and some pastel, like swirls of candy or spun sugar.

There are spider lilies, with “fingers” that spread open. There are frilled lilies, with edges that look like the ruffles of a petticoat. And there are miniatures and big bloomers and double- flowered lilies…. a seemingly endless combination of colors and shapes and sizes.

On that Saturday, there were a handful of other guests doing the same thing my best friend and I were doing. Every minute or two, we would hear another “Ooohhh, look at that!” or “Wow!
That’s gorgeous!” When we passed another visitor on our tour, we’d smile at each other, all of us with the same glazed look of someone trying to absorb so much beauty at once. I held the catalog and marked the ones we liked. Within a few minutes, there were marks all over every
page. “We have to mark the ones we REALLY like… the ones we can’t live without,” my best friend said. “Okay,” I answered in the tone that means “If you really think that’s even possible, then we’ll give it a shot, but there’s no way we can decide we DON’T like a single one of these AMAZING FLOWERS!”

An hour or two later, we made our way to the gazebo where the owners, Tim and Linda Bell conduct their business. Linda takes the orders while Tim and their children help dig the blooms and carefully wrap the roots so they can be taken home. We sat at a picnic table and made our eliminations, finally settling on six lilies we just absolutely had to have. The family cat sat next to me with his head in my lap while we filled out our order form.

Tim Bell took our list and his shovel and headed straight for the blooms we wanted. While we walked down to the pond to wait, I asked my best friend in the world “What must it be like to be a daylily farmer?” “Heaven,” he answered right away. And as we stood there listening to the water ripple and the distant delighted lily lovers as they found the blooms they themselves just couldn’t live without, I had to agree.

“I wish we could do this, live here and breed lilies, and have a cat and a pond,” I said. “But then where we would go on a Saturday like this?” he asked. “That would ruin the special of it.”

I thought about that the whole way home, with our treasures in the back floorboard of the truck, the colors shockingly vivid against the gray interior. Every few minutes, I turned and looked at the ‘Shakespeare’s Red’ and the ‘Mean Joe Green,’ the ‘Native American’ and the ‘Circle of Darkness,’ the ‘You’re the Reason I Smile’ and the ‘Christmas in Oz.’

My best friend was right, as he usually is. There’s a reason the fair only comes to town for a few days and then leaves, a reason Christmas isn’t celebrated year-round, and a reason daylilies bloom for one glorious day and then wither and drop to the ground. The human heart needs something to wish for and to wait for. Our souls need a bright spot to yearn for. Because it’s fleeting, it’s so much more precious.

I hear myself so many times a day starting a sentence with “I wish.” How much happier would I be if I replaced those words with “I’m so grateful for…” “I wish it wasn’t so hot” would become “I’m so glad it’s summer!” and “I wish this work day would end” would become “I’m so thankful I have a job.” I’m human, so it won’t be easy, but that’s my promise to myself – to try every day to speak the language of lilies more often than
the language of wishes.

Just this morning, I stood in the front yard and took a picture of the latest bloom on our Mean Joe Green. This one is my best friend’s favorite, and it is spectacular. Truly. The edges are purple, and the throat of the bloom is a vibrant green. There’s a huge bloom open and facing the sun this morning. “There are only a few more blooms left for the season,” I said as we
walked together in the yard. “I wish it would bloom all year long.”

“But look how beautiful today is,” my best friend said and squeezed my hand. I’m so thankful for that hand and for our Mean Joe Green. And for so many things.

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