I thought we might have missed the wild lilies (Erythronium oregonum) at Francis Point. It’s become our habit to walk to see them over the Easter weekend and this Easter we were in Edmonton watching the magpies in the trees around Brendan and Cristen’s house. But we walked out this morning and were lucky to find a few lilies still in bloom.
It’s a beautiful place to walk. You make your way above the rocks where at low tide the gulls can be seen feeding on starfish (I know, I know: they’re called sea stars now but old habits die hard…) and will look up with their thoats ridiculously distended. Sometimes there are seals or even sea lions passing though it’s more usual to see a boat — a pleasure craft, a fishing boat, or else this:
This is a view across Georgia Strait to Texada Island. We’ve always called it Georgia Strait though there’s a movement to include it in a wider area which supporters want to term the Salish Sea. When I asked Kevin Paul, a poet and linguist from the WSÃ ,NEC Nation on Saanich peninsula (the same area where I spent my teen years), what he thought of the idea, he laughed. He said Salish was a controversial term to say the least and that the body of water I was referring to had different names for different times of the year, used by different Nations, and that it also depended on what you were doing at the time. But some things don’t change. The wind, the flowering arbutus, the gulls, the constancy of the wild lilies, the way the heart opens to all these things on a bright April morning.
We were away in Ottawa over the Easter weekend so we didn’t walk out to Francis Point to see if the white fawn lilies were blooming, the lilies I grew up knowing as Easter lilies for their habit of coming into flower at that particular time. This year I suspect they were still tight buds in late March. It’s been a cool spring thus far. But yesterday we went to the first bay and saw masses of them on the headland.
These are Erythronium oregonum, a delicate creamy white lily with mottled leaves. I’ve loved them all my life. As a child, I used to wander Moss Rocks in the Fairfield neighbourhood of Victoria and marvel at the wildflowers there — these lilies, the magenta shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum), nodding onions (Allium cernuum), and the beautiful rich blue camas (Camassia quamash). I’d come back to my house full of something I had no language for. This early introduction to such wild beauty helped to shape my sense of an ideal landscape, one both beautiful and nourishing (for the onions, and camas can be harvested and eaten, though it’s not advised to do this unless you know the protocols of ethical plant conservation). .
There should be a poem for the moment when you walk along a path under huge trees to a point overlooking Georgia Strait, Texada Island in the distance under cloud, and you see them, the white fawn lilies, their leaves shining after rain. You are the child you once were, ecstatic on the rocks, the woman who has walked to this place for more than a decade to see what’s survived the winter — and look what has, look what grows in both abundance and in solitary beauty: