Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Romancing the Calla

May I wax poetic in May?

My affections lean to the Calla Lilly. Callas are the most elegant of flowers because they keep it simple. Their curvaceous clean lines beckon the beauty from the beholder.
They used to grow like weeds here, popping up in sporatic places and never blooming, quite annoying to the anal gardener. I grouped the strays according to my "like things together" philosophy. Clumping in general makes for stronger plants and visual statements, like being surrounded by family. Now Calla clans flourish in prominent places, lifting their trumpet like forms to play heavenly eye music.  

May I indulge? May I revel in memoirs?
A Midwestern girl, I'd never seen a Calla until my early 20's, when I left the USA  in a fit of "love it or leave it." Casting fate to the wind, the vision quest landed in Bolivia. My husband and I found dwelling in an abandoned brick factory at the end of the bus line on the lower outskirts of La Paz, a city at 12,000 feet. Settling into our new home in the Valley of the Moon, we paid $5 a month rent to our landlady, Frau Lilly, a German widow of questionable emigration status. (Was she or was she not an ex Nazi?) She dutifully ran a tight little garden, the remnants of a land reformed dairy farm. Calla Lilies bloomed prolifically outside her uber tidy house, while abundant bouquets charmed the inside.Young and impressionable, my first up close and personal with a Calla in Frau Lilly's living room left me breathless. Their graceful form seemed supernatural. Perhaps it was the altitude.

The local Indians, taking advantage of the warmer temperatures and flat terrain of the valley, farmed long rows of Calla Lilies to sell at market. They'd set up makeshift plastic booths at the bus stop and hawk Callas and ham sandwiches. We nicknamed the display "The Valley of the Ham Sandwiches." Vegetarians at the time, we never tasted their wares, but would load up on Callas just to hang out with the Cholitas as they watched the Beverly Hillbillies dubbed in Spanish on 4" black and white TV's, proudly wearing their derby hats and multiple petticoats... hmm, long term memory seems to be in check.

Meanwhile, its planting season and the lovely Calla has been gilded long enough.
Now where did I put that trowel?

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