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Our beautiful apostles of hope
Easter Lilies bending low
in the golden afterglow,
Bear a message from the sod
To the heavenly towers of God.
—Louise Lewin Matthews
I don’t recall paying one bit of attention to Easter Lilies when I was a kid. That’s because I lived in a sun-drenched community and flowers were a regular part of the landscape. Our own yard was filled with perennial bushes because they were easy to maintain. When my family occasionally yearned for additional color we’d purchase pony packs of Marigolds and Johnny Jump-ups and plant them around the edges of our flower beds.
It wasn’t until I moved to the Pacific Northwest that I was introduced to the wonderful world of tubers and bulbs. That first Easter Sunday in 1990 the church sanctuary was filled with lilies and their pure white blooms, resembling trumpets, literally glowed. I had shivered through my first Whidbey winter and was thrilled by the springtime daffodils and tulips. The lilies seemed to speak for all the flowers, waking up from their winter’s nap: “Spring is here! There’s new life to be celebrated!”
Over 95 percent of all bulbs grown for the potted Easter Lily market are produced by farms in a narrow coastal region straddling the California-Oregon border, from Smith River, Calif., up to Brookings, Ore. Right in our backyard the bulbs are harvested in the fall, packed and shipped to commercial greenhouses where they are planted in pots and forced under controlled growing conditions to bloom for us each Easter.
Often called the “white-robed apostles of hope,” it is said that lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s agony. Tradition also has it that beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in his final hours.
One of the things I enjoy most about my faith are the ways each holiday is marked by cherished traditions. These traditions express joy as well as provide continuity from one generation to the next. Easter has its share of traditions: egg decorations and hunts; gift baskets and chocolate bunnies; sunrise church services and parades. For me, the beautifully trumpet-shaped white flowers symbolize hope and life -- the spiritual essence of Easter -- and my goal this year is to enjoy them indoors before successfully transplanting them into my garden.
In so many ways this celebration changes little about our everyday lives. Once the ham has been carved, the boiled eggs transformed into egg salad sandwiches and the Easter dinner dishes washed and put away, we will once again begin a new week. It will be filled with people and situations requiring that we sacrifice, work hard, face fear and heartbreak, and in some cases back away from our dreams. Eventually we will even face our own mortality.
Easter allows us to peer past the veil that divides this life from the next by promising us that in all circumstances, our lives have the capacity to bloom. This life of ours is timeless and beautiful.