This Daylilies column is being transplanted here from a blog I started in August of 2014, so I wanted to provide a bit of backstory.
For almost eight years, off and on, I’ve paid attention to my days by keeping a gratitude journal and logging “five things, every day,” as a friend advised me. Last summer, I started posting these lists on Facebook, and some people seemed to like them, and to respond to the question, “How was your day?” I decided to rename, redesign and repurpose an old blog to offer these lists in a more public place.
At a house where I used to live, we had daylilies out front. I remember the day a neighbor across the street was digging some of hers up and dividing them. We went over and got some, brought them back and planted them. They flourished, as daylilies do.
The formal name for daylily is Hemerocallis, derived from two Greek words meaning “beauty” and “day.”
The lifespan of a daylily bloom is a day. (The lifespan of a day, too, is a day.) A day can be like a daylily bloom—fresh and tight in the morning, unfolding through the hours, sagging and spent by dark. It closes, and another opens. In some ways, each resembles all the others; in some ways, it’s unlike any before or to come.
“Daylilies are rugged, adaptable, vigorous perennials that endure in a garden for many years with little or no care,” according to a horticulture professor’s article on growing them. “Daylilies adapt to a wide range of soil and light conditions.”
So do moms. So do kids. So do we all.
Blue Dog in a Red Cape
Years ago, a band I was in played a set at a funky festival. We were on a raised stage, with a good view of the grounds. As we played I noticed a woman arriving with a blue dog wearing a red cape. The dog was Smurf blue and its cape was Superman’s-cape red. After our set was over and we hauled our stuff offstage and regrouped at ground level, I said something about the blue dog.
“What blue dog?”
“The blue dog in the red cape.”
My four bandmates looked at me the way you do when someone says something crazy that no one believes. I was the only one who’d seen it.
I looked around, spotted the woman and her dog, and walked to them. The dog was a white dog, kind of like Dennis the Menace’s, which she had dyed blue for the occasion. I asked whether she would walk over to my friends because they didn’t believe me. She obliged. We came up behind them and I said something and they turned around.
One of them jumped, like one of those loose-limbed toy figures strung with elastic that go floppy when you press the base of the pedestal. “Lordy, it’s a blue dog in a red cape!” he said.
Way back when, the first name I considered for this was Blue Dog in a Red Cape. Because we see things. And we want to show someone. Or to tell someone later, if no one is there to see.
Ideas float into the mind and out again, like a fish glimpsed for a moment in clear water. Or a fish suddenly coming into view in a huge aquarium.
Something remarkable floats into life every day. Into each life. Something superlative, a best of the day, a most of the day. Seize the Carp is about noticing the remarkable, dipping the net into the waters of what is witnessed and presenting the catch of the day.
Seize the Carp is strictly catch-and-release.
I’d say that’s still true about Daylilies.
In 2007, when I was going through a rough patch, my friend Peggy told me to start a gratitude journal. “Five things, every day,” she insisted. I obeyed, logging things in a little notebook on my bedside table every night before lights out. Sometimes I had to be creative to come up with five. (There were, there are, always more than five things in a day to be glad about. I just wasn’t able to see them.) Then there were days when I could name seven, or ten. Then one day I listed twenty.
I’m on Volume 9 now. It was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given. It makes a difference. There are variations on the practice, various names for it or ways to think about it: giving thanks, gratitude, counting your blessings, a thousand gifts, the joy dare, today’s goods, stuff that made you glad. You could Google it and spend a whole afternoon reading rationales and testimonials and how-tos. But really, all you need to do is open a little notebook, or take a piece of paper, and write five things. And do it again the next day. And the next.
I work at a daily newspaper. I like working there, for many reasons. But the news is not always good—both the news we print and the news indoors. These lists are a way to look for and publish the small good news.
Thank you for reading. I hope my daylilies help you think about your days and find something to be glad about, even a bit of beauty, in each of them. I hope today is a beautiful day in your neighborhood.