Awhile back Aunty parted the mist, long before the Cawffee would begin ter perk. Northwest from heah, whar' the land barely swells above a riverbank, under a mossy canopy of live oaks thar' hides a gate. Look close at the paint peeled wooden gate, an' ya know not to take what lies beyond on a first glance. The green has been sanded away by time, but the hinges an' locks be in good order.

Beyond the gate, Aunty followed a  wagon road what ends in a lily patch. Fer nigh on sixty years, daylilies have naturalized over the meadow. As wif' many flora, thar's a short glorious season for lilies.  A body ought not to miss it.

Reckon the dear lady who presides over these floral fields was onc't called the name on her baptismal certificate, but long as I knowed, she's only answered to "Lily."  Thar's some like her left, poked back in a holler or a hammock, but few, very few.  Her GrandMama growed up on the Caloosahatchee an' hobnobbed wif' Thomas Edison when he worked down in Ft.Myers. Her daddy, who built the house afore the 1929 crash,  were a judge-- of horses or men, I can't say. The house has heart pine floors, mostly bare, yet a trained eye would widen at the Persian carpets in the parlor rooms.

Lily stood barefoot on the first step, her hand shading her brow. "Been expecting you any day, now," she said.

We walked the fields, stabbing blue flags at the base of  the plants Aunty selected. A wizend gnome of indeterminate age or intelligence drove a battered golf cart around behind us, diggin' up the bulbs at the flags. Once we circled back to the house, Lily lifted a cast iron kettle from the stove. We "took" rose hip tea and traded news of the past year.

"What of  Sarabeth?" I asked Lily. "That granddaughter of yores is always headed into or recovering' from some high adventure."  She nodded, a faint smile began at the corner of her mouth.

"High adventure, yes....come. Let us marvel at a real adventuress.  I want to show you a new book that just arrived. I'm practically coruscating with delight.  It's a first edition of Freya Stark's Valley of the Assassins. Signed." 

She led the way across the hall to darkened room wif' high ceilings. The drapery had to be fifty years old, saggin' from the craved rods above a long trestle table in front of double windows. The leather volume wuz a beauty, an I admired it. The house ain't never seen air conditioning, the electric service is jes' the same as when it wuz wired in1932, yet heah in mah hands lay a treasure one expects in lofty libraries. I wanted to freeze the moment. Beyond the window the little man settled the boxes of bulbs in mah buggy.

We stood on the porch, Aunty down one step, to begin our goodbyes. Lily met mah quizzical look.

"She visited in January, stars in her eyes. She's taken up with some shoe-wearing people."

"Oh," I said' lookin' down at Lily's strong sun-browned feet under a gauzy skirt, groomed an' unmarred by arthritis. Suddenly I saw Lily as she musta been as a young lassie, a quicksilver smile, book learned but untarnished by pretentiousness.

 ."Oh," I said again." 

Lily spoke without rancor.

"Theropods. They came to pay their respects, Sarabeth as jittery as as frog in cage with a sleeping snake.  She'll know that before the year is out. Old lessons, learned anew. It's best not to hurry the process."

Mah eyes wuz drawn up to hers. How old is this wise lady, I wondered fer the zillionth time."How'd ya' handle them folks, Lily?"

"With polite reticence, my dear. It closes the doors that they ought not enter, but leaves the door open for Sarabeth to come home when her sight clears."


BlazngScarlet said...

A very wise woman indeed!
Such beautiful Lilly's .....

darkfoam said...

So beautiful. It's good to see old Florida through your eyes, aunty. Your friend is a work of art, isn't she. Well, I think you probably are too.

fishy said...

I will be very heartbroken at the loss
of all the beautiful places, people and traditions of the classic South.

In truth, there is a hint of a return to the land in these parts. Grandchildren have gone off to university, tried the big stuff they schooled for and are now coming back to old family farms seeking a more "authentic" life.

We met a couple while in the Outer Banks who told of a high flying executive daughter who shucked big bucks, the mini mansion and the California sunshine right after delivering baby #2. She told her parents she believed it was time for her to turn her skills and connections to improving the lives of families.
She is now the superintendent of schools for a ginormous parish and hopes to revitalize a true community life for families.

Their son came home after a big education and 5 years with a major Wall Street firm to announce he was damned if he was "going to become one of those"... meaning the top businesspersons in the penthouse suites. What does he want to do? Use the family acres to raise squab, rabbit and such for the NYC restaurants. Honest manure is, apparently,preferred.

I bet he could grow awesome day lillys.

chickory said...

her daddy were a judge, of horses or men, i cannot say.

love love it. Beautiful florida tales. keep them coming AUnty. My ambition is suntanned arthritis free bare feet.


darkfoam said...

If you have the time..
Michael W. is hosting haiku Monday at my site.