Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Purple Eyes of Heaven

Our iris colony resides in a sunny hillside alcove on the Two Hundred Acre Wood, surrounded by a dense thicket of armored Prickly Ash. For most of the year, I avoid the area because of the wicked thorns and deer try to stay away from Zanthoxylum americanum too. The barbed thicket is a secure nesting place for indigo buntings, and they flit merrily in and out in summer long, lighting up the hill with iridescent plumage in a fetching variation of my favorite color.

In Greek, the word iris means "eye of heaven" as well as "messenger", and our sumptuous summer blooms take their name from Iris, goddess of the rainbow. As messenger of the gods, she carried their missives between heaven and earth along the prismatic trail, and another of her sacred tasks was escorting the souls of deceased women along the same path to the Elysian fields, the final resting place of those who were heroic and virtuous in life.

There has always been something alluring and powerful about irises and the number three.  One form or another of the three-petaled iris grows in almost every tropical or temperate corner of island earth, and the flower has been cherished by individual cultures for time out of mind. In its purple form, the iris symbolizes royalty and divine protection, and it was venerated by Merovingian monarchs like Clovis who used it as a device on their military banners and painted it on the walls of their dwelling places.  I've always found it incongruous that the iris was used as a heraldic device by a legendary confederation of bellicose Frankish tribes. After the Merovingians, along came the combative Carolingian kings, and the iris became the "fleur-de-lis" beloved of France today.  

For ancient cultures, the iris represented life, virtue and resurrection.  For us, it is the essence of summer, and when it comes to purple, the irises have it all.

4 comments:

Tabor said...

One of my favorites. Many have a lovely fragrance and most are hearty. Missing ours already.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Beautiful
for some reason
many of mine did not bloom this year

Barbara R. said...

I love these, which are early spring flowers here. Then just pretty greenery the rest of the summer into first freeze. But oh their delicate flowers and all kind of colors...I envy those who have succeeded at painting them...so intricate!

christinalfrutiger said...

What a stunningly beautiful photo of your iris. This one looks almost blue...Since they are growing in such a dense, forbidding thicket, they must be wild iris, no? When my mother died I dug up a few of hers that she had planted around her pond and brought them back to my garden..from Michigan to Washington state and they are just now blooming too. She loved iris' and they now bloom in her honor every spring...