Cycling again, I feel happy. Alive.
Every few hundred yards, hordes of pristine white conical lilies smile at me. The first time I saw a black and white picture of one such lily was 18 years ago. For the next 5 years it was the largest picture in our house. It filled our space and me with a sense of peace and beauty. I remember being mesmerised by it the first time I saw it. The fact that one single petal could shape itself into this exotic flower, stupefied me. The contrast with that particularly deep shade of green never fails to capture my eyes. Its elegance leaves me speechless.
It has many names – trumpet-lily, arum-lily and calla-lily. Botanically speaking, it’s not a lily at all. It derives its name from ‘calla’, the Greek word for beauty. In the 19th century, there was a flower-language boom that meant certain flowers were associated with expressing particular feelings. There was no need for words. No surprise that it was the theme of many artistic works.
The calla-lily came to play a role in the Christian Easter service as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. In art throughout history, the calla-lily has been depicted with the Virgin Mary or Angel of Annunciation. It is associated with purity. As it blossoms in spring, it is also a symbol of youth and rebirth. It’s appropriate for weddings and funerals. It symbolises love, devotion and grief.
While mostly white, they are also found in other colours, each one carrying a different meaning. Pink has a connotation of admiration, purple denotes passion and yellow is typically associated with gratitude. Black ones are truly enigmatic and carry a certain mystery.
“The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.” – By William Blake
Georgia O Keeffe’s most famous painting – Keeffe Calla Lily