I am writing this on August 1 – the day Celtic people recognize as a time to celebrate the first signs of the harvest, with our appreciation. We are exactly half way between summer and fall, a perfect time to pause and notice the abundance that calls forth our gratitude.
Flowers are really abundant at this time of year and so deserving of our gratitude for their self-less displays of beauty! Have you noticed them more lately? Their colour, their majesty, their sexual longings and activities, are all right there on display for us. Veritable garden porn.
Lilies seem to display their sexuality particularly boldly . Their petals lie lazily open everywhere for us to see and peer into, if we dare.
What I’ve been finding with flowers is that the more I dare to gaze into one, without agenda – just presence, the more it seems to reveal itself to me.
I was lucky enough to take a walk with visual artist friend, Gail Sibley yesterday and when I am with her, I also see everything on our walks more deeply.
Yesterday, we stumbled upon the beauty reflected in picture on this blog post (it’s Gail’s picture).
The walk, the lilies, and other recent encounters with flowers, inspired me to inquire more into the nature of lilies.
So, in honour of the start of this new Celtic season of celebrating early harvests, I want to present to you with gratitude for its beauty:
I hope you enjoy this little description and that it helps open up your walks as well, to hear more of the language of flowers.
Key facts about lilies to get you started:
1. Lilies are monoecious – meaning they have both male and female parts in the same flower. Where are those male and female parts? Well, in this picture, you are looking right at them!
2. What’s in the middle? As you stare into the middle of the flower, you will see 6 stalks with something on top of them that look rectangular, surrounding one proud stalk in the middle with a sticky, trinity-shaped bit on top.
The six tall stalks standing in the circle, surrounding the one in the middle, are called stamen.Stamens are male reproductive organs, believe it or not. Each stamen consists of a long stalk coming from the flower’s base and topped by that rectangle, called an anther, and that produces pollen. You get the idea of what pollen is then, yes?
That stalk in the middle, the sole one being surrounded by those six fellas, is the flower’s female reproductive organ – and is called the pistil. The pistil emerges from the center of the flower and is topped by a sticky bit on top called a stigma. When we started staring around at the various stigma, we saw some actually dripping wet off the stigma. Yes.
At the base of the stalks is a small, green, sausage-shaped bulb called an ovary. You can’t see it in this picture, but have a hint of it as you stare deeper into the flower and see the hint of green. The sticky pistil tip (the stigma) is what receives the pollen grains during pollination (remember your birds and bees? Well where do you think that saying came from?).
3. Lilies are self sterile – they will not produce seeds from their own pollen (in case you were curious or worried somehow like I was). Cross pollination is the only way seeds can be produced.
4. The pollen is carried from flower to flower by, well, the birds and the bees of course! They are allured in by both the flower’s profusion of colour of the petals and the lily’s heady smell. As they poke around in there, the pollen sticks to them and off they fly to enjoy another flower, bringing along the pollen that they leave behind on their new flower.
5. Once the bird or bee impregnates the pollen by dropping that pollen on on a flower’s sticky stigma (the top of the stalk in the middle), the pollen attaches to the sticky stigma and works its way down the stalk and into that bulb ovary (should I have said wiggles down?).
6. There the pollen land, in the small dark pod and start their transform into seeds. Those seeds grow into the seed pods we eventually see at another turn of the season, when they scatter themselves in the final passionate show of abundance (before dropping into dank earth for yet another change cycle!).
And, if any of you might be making any associations just about now with flowers and the wonderful painter Georgia O’Keefe, that is a logical leap., as her flower paintings were often called sexual and a feminist statement. But interestingly, O’Keefe insisted over her whole career that she wasn’t intending on making a feminist statement or that she set out to make sexual paintings. O”Keefe would say she was wanting to reveal the nature of the flower itself. In her words about her flower paintings:
“I’ll paint it big, and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it. I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.”
To the lily and to your favourite flowers! Let’s celebrate the little things with great reverence! To the harvest!