Killing the Lily

When I was little, growing up awkwardly in coastal Maine, I had a secret relationship with flowers. When I felt neglected or put-upon, or just dispirited, I would take off on my little Schwinn, peel down the steep dirt road to the fields of wildflowers down by Mt. Hunger Road. There I would plow through the waist high grass, brushing off the spider spit and daddy longlegs with barely a cringe, until I found the field's exact center. Then I would slow down, traveling in concentric circles, head down, on a mission. The mission was to do something bad.

Really bad. And the only taboo afforded me at that tender age -- the only thing I could do to alleviate my rage, to get that monkey off my neck -- was to break the law in the only way I knew how. Stealing tiger lilys. Not just stealing them, ripping them out by the roots and actually murdering them. At the time, in the late '70s (and still, for all I know) the orange tigerlily was an Endangered Species. If you were caught picking them, even in small batches for your personal use, you could be Arrested, Tried for Grand Larceny, and Thrown In County Jail. At least that's what my mom told me. And I believed it. I not only believed it, but manufactured an even bigger crime in my head, a crime tied to dying whales, to murdered rhinoceroses, to a doomed planet Earth: a crime against nature. I had heard the phrase, and the moral weight of it (plus the image of bleeding Arfican rhinoceri) chilled my heart to its core.

While I did not really want to be responsible for the Extinction of a Species, betraying my mother, her friend the gross hippy with food in his beard, Ewell Gibbons, and tree-huggers everywhere gave me a lot of satisfaction. Not for me the useless stamping of feet, the ineffectual pouting or crying. No, the beautiful orange tigerlily would have to die for me to feel better, to right the world, to calm down enough to go home and collect kindling (my most evil and unfair chore).

[to be continued]