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Poor Will's Almanack: July 5 - 11, 2016

My wife and I planted dozens of daylilies during the 1980s and 1990s, and each summer morning we counted the plants that were blooming.

I still count lilies in the mornings like I have for over thirty years. This morning, there were forty-five plants in bloom. Others have long bud stalks, and I have sprayed them against the deer that love to eat them.

Last year, the lilies started at the end of May. The greatest number of them in bloom at one time was sixty on the 10th of July. By the third week of August, only one or two remained. I will keep counting to the end.

The trajectory of lilies follows so many other trajectories: the bloom and decline of mid-season hostas, bee-balm, and hydrangeas. It follows the pre-dawn robinsong that fades into silence by the third week of July. Lilies watch the late summer flocking of starlings, the buzzing and rising crescendo of cicadas, the commencement of the cricket chorus, the diminishing of fireflies.

If counting one thing is always about counting something else, it is no mystery to me why I count lilies year after year. Enumeration offers an illusion that strengthens each individual flower, binds all of them together into one force that stretches across years. Repetition creates a gyroscope of habit and memory that balances and recovers what sometimes appear to be lost and disconnected blossoms of time.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of middle summer. In the meantime,  try counting flowers or anything – every morning.

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