Death, loss, separation and abandonment – the many symbolisms of one flower
The story of the red spider lily begins with a beautiful autumnal scene in late September during the Buddhist holiday of Ohigan. It’s this period of time just before the autumn equinox, that has given rise to one of the most fascinating folklores of any flower in the world. In Japan, Ohigan is a time to return home to visit graves and pay respects to ancestors. It also happens to coincide with the brief flowering time of the red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), which unusually blooms in the autumn. Because of the flower’s association with Ohigan (お彼岸) and the autumnal equinox (彼岸), it’s known in Japanese as Higanbana (彼岸花).
By J. R. R. Tolkien
Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.
Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
Let them pass! Let them pass!
Hill and water under sky,
Pass them by! Pass them by!
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!
Sand and stone and pool and dell,
Fare you well! Fare you well!
Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
Once in a while you encounter something that for unknown reasons, burrows deeply into you. This happened to me over a decade ago in Dublin. I visited an exhibit about William Butler Yeats at the National Library of Ireland. I had never read any of this poems before and walked through the displays with interest. But it was the moment I stood in the middle of a circular display that burrowed into me. Yeats read one of his poems over speakers, a disembodied voice traveling from the past and into my ears. His voice was haunting and I’d heard nothing like it before, or since. The words were lost to me over time, but his voice was not and I still hear it when I read his poems today. Because of that experience I’ve now read many of his poems as well as his books on Irish…
By Charlotte Mew
Toll no bell for me, dear Father dear Mother,
Waste no sighs;
There are my sisters, there is my little brother
Who plays in the place called Paradise,
Your children all, your children for ever;
But I, so wild,
Your disgrace, with the queer brown face, was never,
Never, I know, but half your child!
In the garden at play, all day, last summer,
Far and away I heard
The sweet “tweet-tweet” of a strange new-comer,
The dearest, clearest call of a bird.
It lived down there in the deep green hollow,
My own old home, and the fairies say
The word of a bird is a thing to follow,
So I was away a night and a day.
One evening, too, by the nursery fire,
We snuggled close and sat round so still,
When suddenly as the wind blew higher,
Something scratched on the window-sill,
A pinched brown face peered in–I shivered;
By Mary Carolyn Davies
Dryad, hidden in this tree!
Break your bonds and talk to me!
No one’s watching, only peep
From your cave! The town’s asleep!
No one knows I stand here, so
Come! for they will never know!
Tell me what you think of here
When the moon is sharp and clear,
When the clouds are over you,
When the ground is wet with dew.
Dryad, are you happy, say!
Do you like to live this way?
I will keep your secrets well,
I will never, never tell!
Dryad, hidden in our tree,
Come, oh, come and talk to me!