At first it appeared to be just a little fluke -- an iris that had come from my Grandpa Angelo Ricci's garden back in Bristol, CT, bloomed in my front yard in cold weather on Monday, October 19th. But it has now been nine days. Multiple irises have shot forth from the green stalks, and more blossoms are coming out from other stems. The flowers are standing strong through all kinds of rain and low temps.
Someone pointed out to me that irises -- which take their name from the Greek word for "rainbow," have a long spiritual tradition. The flower can be found virtually in every part of the world, growing naturally and on farms. They have been used as a medicinal remedy for eons.
"The iris’s history is rich, dating back to Ancient Greek times when the Greek Goddess Iris, the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow, acted as the link between heaven and earth. Purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the Goddess to guide the dead in their journey. Ancient Egyptian kings marveled in the iris’s exotic nature, and drawings have been found of the flower in a number of Egyptian palaces. During the Middle Ages, the meaning of irises became linked to the French monarchy, and the Fleur-de-lis eventually became the recognized national symbol of France."
It's this sentence that stands out:
"Purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the Goddess to guide the dead in their journey."
Guiding the dead in their journey brings to mind Día de Los Muertos, a holiday which coincides with Halloween, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s day. These three holidays just happen to be this weekend.
Celebrated in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, Día de Los Muertos pays homage to a person's ancestors. It's a day of celebration, without sadness or ghoulishness or fear. It's a chance to feel close to beloved family members who have passed. It isn't at all like Halloween which spooks us with ghosts and skeletons, reminding us that death looms. Instead, Día de Los Muertos celebrates life and reunites in joy with our loved ones, using music, dancing, food and processions.
I've invited my family to come for dinner on Sunday, and I'm planning to make spaghetti and meatballs in honor of my Italian tradition. I will place my parents' and grandparents' photos on a small altar, along with candles and chrysanthemums, the traditional flower. Maybe we'll watch the Disney movie "Coco," which is all about one family's experience with death and Día de los Muertos.
How fitting I would find out about this holiday now, as I have begun celebrating my ancestors as I write the book I'm calling, Heal Leah, Leah Heal.
I DID A SKETCH OF THE IRIS A FEW DAYS AGO!