An Update on My African Lily
Many years ago, I inherited one of my grandmother’s plants: a heavy pot of thick roots and tens of long, robust green leaves with rounded tips. At first, I thought it was an orchid, but after showing it several florists who could not identify it, I decided to love my weird, unknown plant, no matter what it was.
I’ve had this plant for forty years now, and I remember how – just a few days after I moved into my first house – eight gorgeous orange blossoms appeared clustered atop one tall, flat stem. I hadn’t seen the stem growing or noticed any buds, so it was a complete surprise when it arrived on the scene.
Before that day, I had no idea the plant ever bore flowers, and I remember feeling a strong connection with my grandmother, a complicated woman, to whom I was always very close.
Despite the fact that I fed and watered it dutifully, decades passed and my plant never flowered again.
In fact, I kind of forgot that the plant flowered at all…
…until June 2016.
I was moving through a difficult divorce…
…when my plant burst into color for the first time since 1997.
At the time, I posted a photo of it on Facebook, asking if anyone could identify what it was.
Almost immediately, my friend Regina sent me a link about a rare African lily, Clivia Amaryllidceae, which – according to the article – stated that the plant normally blooms once every 20-25 years.
And as you can imagine, I was beside myself and I spent way too much time telling everyone about my amazing rare lily. I loved seeing my plant bloom again, and I made peace with the idea that its beauty would be impermanent.
A week later, as each petal shriveled and fell off the stem and onto the floor, I thought about how grateful I was to have been able to enjoy such a simple pleasure so fully.
I resumed regular care of my lily, which meant watering it on Saturdays, and I figured I’d have to wait another 20 years or so before I’d see it bloom again.
But guess what?
It has bloomed again EVERY SINGLE YEAR since.
So much has happened in the last ten years.
I’ve experienced the most intense physical and psychological pain that I could have ever imagined while coming off the powerful anti-anxiety drug, clonazepam. The terror that I experienced daily for nearly 2 years is almost indescribable. I cannot believe I survived it.
There was a period where my brain was so damaged that the concept of beauty was just a memory of an idea. I could feel nothing at all. If a friend tied to touch me, her hand was too rough. If the sun was shining, it was too bright. If children were laughing, it was too loud. I was certain people were trying to hurt me. I was certain my food had been poisoned.
Trapped in a pain cycle, all the highly paid “experts” told me I was crazy, that it was “absolutely impossible” for me to still be experiencing withdrawal symptoms after 24 months.
And while the best conventional minds told me I was mad, there were others who knew better. People reached out to me and told me that I would be okay. That I just needed to hold on for another moment.
And another moment.
They reassured me that all the tiny moments would add up.
They said the moments would grow into minutes.
Which would grow into hours.
Which would grow into days.
They told me there would be days where I would go backwards, where my symptoms would intensify. They told me it was all part of the healing.
They told me to trust the nature of things.
Nature knows what to do, they told me.
I’ve always believed in angels, and I believe — more than ever – that we are all surrounded by a powerful, invisible magic. I’ve tried to speak of this many times while I was growing up, of my intense connection to something beyond the visible, a cosmic force that I have experienced directly many times, but I was teased and laughed at.
Today, I’m in touch with something beyond this world, something that other people don’t seem to be able to access as easily as I do.
These days, I am certain that my grandmother is communicating with me via this plant that we share, this tender life that we have spent over 100 years nurturing, separately, yet together. Today, she is telling me that I’m on the right path, reminding me that beautiful things happen when we aren’t looking, or waiting, or expecting or trying to control everything.
I know that many of you are going thru something hard right now.
As someone who has been there, I hope you will allow me to share something with you on this most beautiful, sun-filled May day.
WHENEVER YOU ARE IN THE MIDST OF SOMETHING DARK, WHENEVER YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE MIDST OF SO MUCH UNCOMFORTABLE CHANGE, UNDERNEATH ALL THE FEAR AND THE DREAD, I CAN TELL YOU WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE OKAY.
You will bloom again, too.