C.W. Gusewell


Naked ladies frolic in the snow

It certainly wasn’t appropriate weather for such behavior, for there’d been a snow the day before. The morning temperature was sharp, and great patches of white still could be seen.

But when I glanced out the window beside my desk, I saw, to my considerable astonishment, a crowd of naked ladies displaying boldly in our yard.

No neighbors were outside, so it’s possible the untimely appearance may have gone generally unnoticed.

I called the spectacle to my wife’s attention, and she shared my surprise.

For her, as for me, naked ladies are a treat, but they rarely present themselves until the climate here at the prairie’s edge turns a bit milder.

There they were, though, uncomplaining and showing no signs of frostbite or other discomfort.

To prevent any possible misunderstanding, these winter visitors are known by other names – ones that can be spoken in the presence of children of tender years.

Resurrection lilies , for one. Surprise lilies for another.

All through the bitter season their bulbs lie dormant underground until, awakened by the first suggestion of spring’s approach, they thrust up great bunches of long-leafed foliage.

That’s not supposed to happen, though, when the earth is cloaked in white.

As spring advances into summer, that foliage dies back entirely, and it seems the cycle is complete. But then in August, in the space of a couple of days, up through the barren earth are thrust graceful stalks, topped by clusters of buds that open into glorious pink trumpets.

Out of seeming death has come wondrous, unexpected beauty. Hence the reference to resurrection .

The ladies in our front yard are arranged in a wide circle around a flowering crab tree, sharing that space with the bright blossoms of impatiens until heat gives way to frost.

That’s the regular cycle of their year. The surprise, therefore, was to see the hardy bunches of lily spears poking out of an unwelcome February snow.

Were they deceived by the previous short run of days with the mercury at 55 degrees and warmer?

Or do they know something that we do not about the six weeks or so that lie immediately ahead – weeks until the bird’s-foot violets open their tiny purple blossoms, the tree frogs begin creaking and the first tom turkey greets the dawn with his gobble?

If so, they’re not talking. Naked ladies never tell.