Winter Doldrums

January 03, 2023

Just after the New Year, a friend left an amaryllis plant at my door. He is a gardener with a stunning urban garden, so I was certain the plant would bloom into an exquisite flower. Included was a card that read, “I hope this will help with the January doldrums.”

Usually at the end of January we feel sadness and lethargy caused by the cold, short, dark days. We long for spring. We haven’t experienced the January doldrums in the same way this winter because the weather has been so mild. In fact, New York City broke a record this week for the longest period Central Park has gone without recording measurable snowfall since Jan. 29, 1973.

The amaryllis, placed on my table and with lots of sun exposure, began to grow. Each day the stem seemed to increase by inches until becoming, at its full height, 28 inches tall. The bloom is exquisite. It reminds me of a painting.

Enjoying this plant, I decided to learn more about the amaryllis. There are two species, and the one we know is probably the Amaryllis belladonna, which is a native of the Western Cape region of South Africa, found particularly in the rocky southwest area between the Olifants River Valley and Knysna.

Learning about the plant’s origin was interesting. Then my research led me into Greek mythology. It seems Amaryllis was given instructions by the Oracle of Delphi about how to show her love for Alteo, a shepherd. She was told to walk for 30 days to Alteo’s home while piercing her heart with a gold arrow. The hope was that he would see her blood and recognize her deep devotion to him. While he recognized her love, he didn’t return it. On the 30th day, Amaryllis pierced her heart once again. This time, radiant red flowers emerged from the ground where her blood had spilled. When Alteo saw these flowers, he recognized Amaryllis’ beauty and returned her love.

I have read that “amaryllis” is a Greek name which means “to sparkle” and that the flowers are believed to stand for pride, strength and determination.

This week we grieve for Tyre Nichols and his family. We grieve for the police officers who displayed the anger and violence that resulted in Tyre’s death. Anger that has roots in systemic racism. We view images that remind us of photographs of Emmett Till.

We add Tyre Nichols to the list of sons we grieve.

We find solace in the beauty of the amaryllis. Perhaps radiant flowers will emerge where blood has spilled on the ground. Perhaps we will all find the strength and determination necessary for change.