Día de Muertos and the Magic of Flowers

We are about halfway through fall. Our side of the earth is tilting away from the sun. Darkness is winning but life goes on.

earth star

closeup

My favourite wildflower around here is the rain lily even though I most frequently see them growing in the ugliest places: edging half-dead lawns or screaming highways. Spotting some in a wooded area was like breathing clean air.

rainlily october 2015

Someone thought this one looked good enough to eat

rain lily star bite

They start to blush when they die.

blushing rain lily

School house lilies bloom a little later in my neighbourhood than the rest of Austin. Other bloggers have already seen them come and go but they are just starting here. In theory they want a lot of sun but mine grow in deep shade. I didn’t plant them. They came with the house. The patch could very well be seventy years old.

school house lilies

Asters are beginning to shine too.

October aster

october asters

We saw them growing in small bunches near Walnut Creek but all along the trail edges were literally miles of some kind of yellow aster.

Even the invasive plants are looking good after the rain. Here’s a snapshot of a very old privet. Silver, green, peach.

privat bark

Everywhere I look it seems like magic is in the air. Happy Día de Muertos, by the way. In case you didn’t hear, the monarch butterflies made it safely home in time for the celebration. The storm following the hurricane could have resulted in disaster.

I was thrilled to see the traditional Aztec Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) for sale at my local grocery store. Last year I looked and looked but was unable to find any.

marigold

Though one of its common names is the African Marigold, it is native to Mexico and Central America. This plant is edible and has a long association with magical practices and celebrations. Its use began in pre-Columbian Mexico but quickly spread all over the world as people recognized its happy nature.

The marigold is the sun. The heart. The source of life and energy. So, gather up some people. Share some love. Remember those who are gone. Share a meal and play some music. That’s how we keep our bodies and spirits warm as winter approaches.

And if you ever can’t find marigolds to brighten the beginning of November I can recommend carving pumpkins as good substitute.

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16 thoughts on “Día de Muertos and the Magic of Flowers

  1. I had the hardest time with marigolds. Birds apparently value the petals as a natural pest deterrent in their nests and the ones I’ve tried to raise were generally pecked to pieces. I tried not to mind…. Now I pretend orange cosmos are marigolds. The colors are similar at least.

    One year I was in Guatemala for the Dia fiesta and the associated All Soul’s celebrations. The bunches of marigolds for sale in the central markets were stunning. The air was redolent with their spiciness, and it felt as though there were no need for the sun to shine for you are right – they ARE light! Wonderful post!

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    1. Thanks, Deb! The marigolds I grew up with were the French marigolds and people used to line them up like little tin soldiers. I love the smell of the Mexican marigolds. If I thought these ones were safely grown I could definitely picture tossing the petals into a salad. Oh! To be in Guatemala for the holiday! That must have been absolutely lovely.

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  2. Lovely captures, especially of the rain lilies. For a supposedly easy flower to grow, I’ve had scant luck with them, but I enjoy those that other gardeners grow and of course, the ones along the roadsides…

    I was also very glad the Monarchs made it to their winter home in relative safety and without damage from the hurricane. I didn’t have as many visit this year, but apparently, they migrated west of Austin–that’s good, they didn’t have to deal with the traffic. Still, a few stragglers have graced the gardens.

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    1. I think the rain lilies thrive on neglect — at least I usually see them in neglected and seemingly unloved places. I was surprised to see them growing in a shaded area as I assumed they wanted a lot of sun. I read a few reports about how the migration swerved to avoid the storm. That gave me goosebumps.

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    1. I know! I had goosebumps when I heard about that hurricane — for the people of course but also for the monarchs. What good fortune it didn’t turn into a colossal disaster.

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  3. Until Chloris posted about this festival I had not heard of it before. Your post is lovely Debra, news of your Monarchs has been slow to filter through here, I am glad of your report. What a beautiful photograph too of the Privet wood, at first I thought it was some kind of map of America.

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    1. It does look look like one of those satellite images. At least that was my thought when I took the snap. The butterflies are seen by some people in Mexico as symbols of the people who have passed away. They arrive (usually) just in time for the celebration. The marigold tends to flower just in time too.

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  4. But what is a rain lily? Latin please? It is so beautiful. Thanks for the picture of the proper Aztec marigold, I shall grow some next year. Lovely golden sunshine for autumn.

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    1. heh I KNEW you’d ask. I t-h-i-n-k it is Cooperia drummondii but that is only a guess. I hated marigolds when I was growing up. I always thought they looked fake! What a surprise to find out they are a native flower. If I had any sunlight I’d grow them. Maybe I’ll reserve part of my veggie allotment space …

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