Several years ago I kept a diary about the calla lilies in our yard. I photographed them, drew them, and made paintings of them. The result was a series of photos and a collection of writings that I showed in an exhibit in a local gallery. While it was a rewarding experience, I got sick of calla lilies. It was like eating your favorite meal sixty days in a row. On day sixty the meal is no longer your favorite. Far from it.
I just performed my annual ritual of weed-whacking the yard. The winter rains make the backyard look like a cornfield. The grass gets green and tall and I attack the hill like a billy goat. Hidden in the grass (weeds) are white, pristine, utterly gorgeous calla lilies. And so, it is my job to avoid them in my zealous desire to make the yard presentable. Mission: Chop down the weeds, save the calla lilies. Sadly, the adrenaline gets the best of me and a couple lilies always give up their lives to the cause. They slowly fall, like a giant timber. Unlike the timber, their sad landing is silent. No crash, no nothing. Just death.
The lily is a symbol of death and this is appropriate. You see, the reason I was attracted to them as a subject of my art is that they are deadly poisonous to cats. Some years ago one of our cats mistakenly ate a lily in a bouquet on our mantle. The kitten was dead in forty eight hours. Since then I've had a complicated relationship with lilies. I'm not sure if I should fear them, hate them, love them, or all of the above.
I grieved for a long time over the death of that kitten. I felt guilty for not knowing the poisonous nature of the lily. I was distraught over the sudden decline of a frisky little soul. To this day, all flowers are mostly banned from the house. Lilies stay in the yard. The cats stay inside.
I realized this weekend as one of these white flowers of death fell silently to the ground that I'd finally come to terms with them. I was no longer angry with them. I was no longer sick of photographing them and making art about them. They were simply calla lilies once again. This made me happy and I made a picture.