Jun 17, 2006

On Tiger Lillies and Time

Photo by historymike

(Toledo, OH) Walking in my garden today I was greeted by the season's first tiger lily, whose orange burst opened in the moonlight as I slept.

These lillies are among my favorite flowers, as they require little maintenance and bring many years of pleasure. You just plant the bulbs, give them a little water, and watch them multiply.

I think of tiger lillies as a July phenomenon, though. Perhaps it is just my middle-aged brain deceiving me, but I associate them with the Fourth of July.

It is only in the last two centuries or so that humans have become dependent upon mechanical devices to keep track of time. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, when mass production of consumer goods became possible, watches and clocks were a sign of wealth, rather than a necessity.

Concurrently, the mechanization that accompanied the Industrial Revolution forced humans to become slaves to time. The time on our watches needs to be synchronized with that of the timekeeping devices of our employers, or we face disciplinary action.

I have worked for employers in which tardiness in excess of five minutes meant an immediate writeup. Such an obsession with punctuality seems almost dehumanizing, but far be it from me to tell that to an employer.

We are not far removed from the days when the blooming of a particular flower such as a tiger lily held great significance to the humans who lived in its vicinity. They might mark this event by planting a particular crop, or using it to gauge some other seasonal milestone.

I have become more attuned to the natural flow of time in the last few years as I have begun to devote myself to what I like to call "experiments in urban agriculture" (although I am still ostensibly a slave to mechanized time).

The annual arrival of raspberries happens near my son's early August birthday, while our lamb's ear plants bloom near the beginning of the school year. The appearance of our roses usually occurs on or around Memorial Day weekend, and is my signal that summer has officially begun.

As I look at my watch, I see that it is 11:47 am. I have to run a lot of errands and knock off quite a few items on my to-do list, but for the moment 11:47 is just a couple of meaningless numbers.


Anonymous said...

Whoa! Nice new look.

Marc F. said...

Hello, I really like your sentences about time, and the kind of "emptiness" one can feel with these numbers 11:47, nothing to do with time and duration. I am following the same kind of thought in another way : looking for new ways of displaying time. You are welcome at www.relatime.com and I would appreciate your comments, if any.

Maggie Thurber said...

Mike - nice background...

Nice photo. My lilies are about 10 days from blooming, but my roses are fantastic.

Will be getting a new digital camera for my birthday next week - talk about time going by...I feel too young to be my age.

Do said...

Great new look, Mike! And love the lily!

I just planted a BUNCH of them. They are getting adjusted to their new home and I hope start blooming soon. :)

Maggie - you're still a kid! ;) No matter how old you are, I'll still be older! Unless I decide to sit out the next several birthdays and see if you catch up.

Berserker said...

Tiger Lilies have always been one of my favs, as well.

I have to replant them in a place with more sun. I put a couple in a shady area and they don't seem to like it.

Once they get going they'll take over.

The Guess Who, "No Time."

Love Burton Cumming's voice, eh?

historymike said...


Thanks for the kudos.

I also feel too young to be my age. Since my daughters are physically (if not emotionally) old enough to be mothers, the idea that I could be a grandfather in a few years is weird.

historymike said...


If they do not bloom thsi year, you can bet they will go nuts next year.

We started with about ten bulbs, and we now get probably 300 blooms.

I have been transplanting them in different places in the yard. Eventually we will wind up with a sea of orange for 2-3 weeks.

historymike said...


Yes, Burton Cummings is one of rock's truly great voices.

He has incredible range, and one of the best vocal vibratos in pop music (Roy Orbison, may he rest in peace, was King of the Vibrato).

Ptelea said...


Thanks for stopping by my blog - I have seen brown pelicans before but haven't had time to observe. Sounds like something one MUST do!

One of my favorite flowers of all time is a native version of your tiger lily - called the wood lily. It is rare which makes it all the more special when you come upon one, ususally in a boggy area or in an aspen grove.

It does make life richer when you plant these special flowers and incorporate them with the times of your life.

historymike said...

Sure, Ptelea. For those unfamiliar with her blog, Pajama Library, Ptelea posts some awesome photography, especially her sunset and sky pics.

Hooda Thunkit said...

The lillies are awesome Mike.

My flowers (thanks to careless neighbors), are much yellower and closer to the ground.

I tried keeping them in check with frequent mowing, but now I'm spreding them.