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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lilies of the Valley. By John von Daler

                    Sometimes people are as unknowable as, say, a lawn full of grass. You look for something personable, something special and all you see is the great, green field without a break or a variation, just one, flat sheet of monotonous uniformity.
And then suddenly, say some day in February or March, you notice a lily of the valley and you think, this place, this person, too is beautiful, hopeful, and speckled with undiscovered qualities.

                Here are some of the human lilies of the valley that I discovered in our lawn:
                Picking up the Jonathan apple my mother would take an all-too-large bite, leaving the red mark of her lipstick on almost half of the semi-decimated orb. She would wipe her chin daintily with her handkerchief, removing the rest of the tart juice that had run down from the fruit. Then she would hold up the apple like a trophy in a spotlight surrounded by applause. Ah, she would say, there's nothing like a fresh apple!
                At that moment her eyes would take on an engaging sparkle, an involuntary revelation, as if her soul for just a moment had unveiled itself completely.
                My father would squat in a flowerbed, searching for weeds. He could sit there for hours on his haunches, hunting out the misplaced plants, carefully laying them on the grass beside the bed. When he finished, the weeds would still be there, as they would for weeks after. The weeding was not really to rid his property of the offending plants, but rather to retreat into that meditative trance that could align his daily life with his innermost soul.
                In those moments his face would relax and his eyes would lose focus. If he had not been sitting absolutely still, you might have taken him to be a whirling dervish.
                My old friend, the Storyteller, would be sipping wine at his antique wooden table in the dark little first floor apartment. He would pick up one of the hard, round goat cheeses the size of my violin rosin. Taking his knife he would carefully slice off a thin piece of the heady stuff and put it on a piece of French baguette. As he bit into it I think he could see winefields in France and his own vagabonding youth: the time when he floated without an anchor down the stream of his life.
                At that moment he would slightly close his eyes and retreat into a secret room out of which a thin slice of light escaped through the partially closed door. That sparkle reached his companions like the light of some star long since burned away.
                My former neighbor, a man of leisure, almost lazy you might say, would settle into a chair in the sun in my garden. He would offer me a beer and open one for himself. She's at it again, he would say. Cleaning. I'm supposed to carry down the old newspapers. In fact he had found it impossible not to take the long trip down the stairs from his apartment with only the beers in hand to drink in the sun here 10 meters from the garbage cans.
                If I sit this close to the house, she can't see me. Shhh! Keep your voice down, he would say. When I looked him in the eye just at the moment when the bottle was tipping the cold, golden liquid into his mouth, I could see that entranceway to his soul, that sparkle of genuine joy.
                These were four lilies of the valley from my own green lawn. You have some at your place, too.

My book might be
a lily of the valley.
Pluck it by clicking here:


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