The Astonishments of Easter

Texas Spiderlily ~ Hymenocallis liriosme


Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
                               “Mysteries, Yes” ~ Mary Oliver


Comments always are welcome.

103 thoughts on “The Astonishments of Easter

  1. Reminds me a bit of a Swamp Lily we have here in Australia.

    Crinum pedunculatum also known as the swamp lily, river lily or mangrove lily, is a bulbous perennial found in stream and tidal areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, Australia as well as New Guinea and some Pacific Islands.

    1. Flowers can be unpredictable, that’s for sure. On the other hand, these are part of a small colony I’ve seen year after year along highway 90A between Eagle Lake and Hallettsville. I wasn’t sure about them this year, but they were just a bit later in blooming.

    1. This is one of my favorites, and one of the easiest ones to find. If there’s water, it will set up shop, so it’s often blooming along our roadside ditches. The most spectacular bloom I ever saw came after a prescribed burn on a prairie. Literally hundreds — probably thousands — of the flowers emerged. What a sight that was.

    1. When I found this group of lilies, I wasn’t sure how or if I’d use them, but when I came across the Mary Oliver poem, they seemed to fit together perfectly. I’m glad you enjoyed both. Happy Easter!

    1. A happy Easter to you, Kausbernd, and to all of the Fab Four. Nature always has something to add to our celebrations, and I was pleased to have this lily to share. They are beautiful flowers.

  2. The spiderlilies are a lovely astonishment. What an amazing shape they are, and so elegant too! Your beautiful photograph is well accompanied by Mary Oliver’s superb words. The natural world is full of astonishments.

    1. Indeed it is. Sometimes, it takes a bit of a closer look to find those astonishments, but they’re there. If I’d shown you the setting for these flowers, for example, you’d have seen them in a muddy ditch at the edge of a busy highway, with a barbed wire fence behind them and a rusting culvert not far away. Focus, and it’s a wholly different image!

    1. Oliver’s often thought-provoking. Her vision of the natural world is marked by her own astonishment at things we too often take for granted, making her poetry even more of a gift.

  3. The spider lily is a beautiful flower. It’s the essence of minimalism. I like the line: “Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.” I’ve been reflecting on that idea most of the week then to read it here brought it home. Happy Easter!

    1. Oliver’s work often applies in ways and in times she might not have imagined. I’m glad we have it, just as I’m glad to be surrounded by the natural beauty that fills the world. Happy Easter to you!

    1. These lilies are as hardy and resilient as they are beautiful, just like the message of Easter. A happy day — and a happy Easter season — to you!

    1. Happy Easter Monday to you and Peggy, Curt. This lily is not only beautiful, it’s willing to set up shop in muddy, unkempt ditches; in my view, that makes it even more appropriate for the holiday.

      1. Late getting back on this one, Linda. Don’t you just have to love flowers that consider it their life work to make not so attractive places, beautiful.
        Peggy and I are in Sacramento, now. Her sister, Jane, and my friend of 50 years, passed away unexpectedly right after we got back from Egypt. We are here for a couple of weeks helping the family take care of her husband, Jim, and get ready for a celebration of life, memorial, which will be a fairly big event given that Jane did so much for Sacramento during her life.

        1. I’m so sorry, Curt. Please give Peggy my condolences. Unexpected death always is difficult; shock and grief combined in situations like yours is especially hard. I’m glad you had returned from your trip. Getting news like that while overseas would have been awful; my best to you both.

          1. Thank you, Linda. Much appreciated.
            We have been in Sacramento the last week and a half now, helping with Jane’s husband, Jim, who is also a friend but has serious health problems. We’ve been able to give the kids a break so they can focus on sorting things out and preparing for the memorial, which is on Sunday.

  4. “Let me keep company always with those who say
    “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.” Thanks for sharing that. I particularly love that final thought.

    1. Beyond their appearance, their preference for ditches always amuses me. No hothouse flowers, these. Give them a ditch with a bit of moisture, and there they are: a perfect contrast to the mud and muck.

    1. I don’t think I new that you enjoy Mary Oliver’s work, but it doesn’t surprise me. I’m glad you enjoyed the flowers. I mentioned to another reader that it can be hard to find an isolated group to photograph; these fill our ditches in spring, and it was delightful to find these standing somewhat apart from the others.

    1. I have several Oliver poems that I read often, and this is one. I’m glad you enjoyed it, too! I hope your weekend was a good one. Ours was marked by drizzle, clouds, and cool temperatures, and everyone was relatively happy about it. Rain can be an Easter gift, too!

    1. And to you, John. It’s always a pleasure to read Mary Oliver; like Annie Dillard and Wendell Berry, she has a clear-eyed view of things that’s greatly appealing.

    1. You’re going to have fun in the coming months exploring the mysteries on your ‘new’ prairie, not to mention the mysteries involved in bringing your new books to completion. May it all be enjoyable, Jack — the world’s well worth the engagement.

  5. Lovely flowers Linda! The “Let me keep..” lines of the poem are really perfect for me just now, thanks so much for sharing this fab Mary Oliver poem.

  6. My sentiments exactly….”Let me keep my distance, always, from those
    who think they have the answers.
    Let me keep company always with those who say
    “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.” Hope you had a great Easter Linda! DM

    1. It was a fine day, DM. Despite the clouds and a bit of drizzle, I celebrated with friends, and then had my own sort of egg hunt, coming home happy with a few photos.

    1. The spider lilies are lovely. It’s always especially nice to find a small grouping of them. They can be so thick in the ditches it’s hard to isolate a group; this worked perfectly, with a little symmetry thrown in.

  7. What’s not to love about the beauty of a pure white flower at Easter time or the words of Mary Oliver?

  8. That photo has the look of the Holy Trinity about it – only the middle presence isn’t quite fully formed (maybe it’s the Holy Spirit & we’re not quite to Pentecost yet).

    This is something that I’ve been working on:

    Let me keep my distance, always, from those
    who think they have the answers.

    1. I noticed the symmetry of the blooms, but the trinitarian form didn’t occur to me; what a perfect addition you’ve brought! As for distance-keeping, I still remember a lesson I learned in the days when ‘soap operas’ were the thing on television. You can skip three weeks, come back, and find the plot’s stuck in the same place — although the cast may be wearing different clothes.

    1. I’m so glad you like the photo, Robert. I felt very happy to find these flowers somewhat isolated, adding to the simplicity of the composition. Like you, I find keeping distance and keeping company an almost perfect pair: both are needed for a balanced life.

    1. Her poetry is one of the things in life that can be counted on. Every now and then I come across one of her poems and think, “Oh, my. What was she thinking?” but they’re not common. She does seem to have especially clear vision, and a fine touch with words.

    1. I really enjoy the fact that these lilies are ditch-dwellers. ‘Out of the mud, beauty’ is a rather Easter-like message. I smiled at your suggestion that even the questions can be opaque; sometimes, that helps to make them interesting.

  9. Love the title “Astonishments…” All the remembered, re-remembered, and forgotten delights of Springtime with the glorious gift of eternal life thrown in!

    1. One of the sadnesses of contemporary life is that so many people have lost the ability to be astonished by anything –and without that ability, a good bit of what makes life worth living never is seen. Here’s to an astonishing spring, and astonishing lives: temporal and otherwise!

  10. My wife and I used to live near Landsford Canal State Park which is on the Catawba River in South Carolina. Here you will find the largest population of Rocky Shoals Spider Lillies in the world. We were fortunate to paddle our canoe among the lillies at the end of May one year, the peak of their blooming season. I found a great video of the Spider Lillies on YouTube.

    1. What beautiful flowers! I read that these — Hymenocallis coronaria — are restricted to South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia. Their relationship to ours is clear, but the differences are delightful. What an experience it must have been so see them en masse, and to be among them in that way. Lucky you!

    1. Oliver’s a good poet for Earth Month and Earth Day. She’s as sensitive to nature and to the issues around it as any formal ecologist, but her quite different approach, emphasizing engagement, always has appealed to me.

    1. The lilies often can be so thick in our ditches it’s hard to isolate a few. Here, it worked perfectly, and the flowers certainly do complement the poem. As one of my other readers pointed out, they’re trinitarian lilies!

    1. Mary Oliver always seems to fit the season. As for the lilies, I certainly like these better than the ones that show up in our grocery stores for Easter; their scent is so unpleasant to me, I always avoid the displays.

  11. A perfect pairing of Mary and the lily, Linda. And, at the risk of sacrilege, I daresay your choice of the Spider lily is more pleasing than the traditional one.

    1. I happen to agree with you about the lilies. I find the scent of the traditional ones so displeasing I’ll avoid the grocery store displays entirely, and I never would bring one into my home. In my opinion, they don’t have a scent; they have an odor.

  12. Terrific use of the Spider Lily. For me, it works as a metaphor for life itself. So beautiful, so delicate.

    Best line of Ms. Oliver’s poem is the last:

    Let me keep company always with those who say
    “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.

    1. And like the lotus, the spider lily usually has its feet in the mud while it produces those beautiful blooms.

      About eight years ago, I left a comment on someone else’s blog, and was so taken with it I saved a copy of it in my files. I wrote: ” I’m down to about twenty years now, give or take, and getting in shape, preserving the good health I have, and not wasting time on the stupid, the boring, or the irrelevant is right up there on top of my list. If I manage to avoid stupid, boring, and irrelevant, I’ll have plenty of time for what’s important.”

      Like looking, and laughing, and bowing.

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