The Role of the Environment

They were everywhere.

Their tawny heads bobbing in the breeze atop three-foot high slender stalks anchored in grassy skirts. The common daylily is certainly common in Madison, Wisconsin, found in almost every landscape. And I was shocked to see them in such numbers. Because, in Atlanta, they are much more of a rarity.

Not because they struggle with the conditions.

But because they grow too well.

The common daylily (often called “ditchlily” in the south) thrives in the heat and humidity. Spreading on its own volition, it can be found in great swaths across neglected fields and breathing through the exhaust along the highways. It’s rarely found in cultivated landscapes because it does not play well with others. It seeks to dominate, becoming a monoculture if not held in check by sturdy borders or isolated by an elevated bed.

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In the short summers of Madison, the lily is much more polite. I saw endless evidence of common daylilies coexisting pleasantly with less vigorous companions. The conditions of the cooler climate hold the plants in check and fail to nurture the bullying behavior that is so evident in the south.

Same plant. Two completely different presentations in two different environments.

And, in many ways, we are just like the daylily. Some environments nurture our negative qualities whereas others cultivate our beauty and suppress our harmful drives.

But unlike the daylily, we are not anchored into the ground. We have the ability to choose our environment.

We have two friends that were in a relationship together for a few years. They loved each other deeply, yet together they created a toxic brew of negativity and drama. Eventually, the roots were pulled up and each found a new companion. And the same people, now immersed in a different environment, have none of the previous damaging behaviors.

It’s not always easy for them – they see the way their ex is now and wonder why he/she couldn’t be that way for them. They are different because their surroundings are different. That’s it. No nefarious plot or devious withholdings. It’s not something to take personally.

We all hold the potential to be noxious weeds or beautiful flowers. And it’s up to us to ensure that our environment nurtures the qualities we wish to multiply. And to understand that sometimes people in our lives require a different environment themselves in order to thrive.

I guess our parents were right – it really is important to choose your friends wisely.

I neglected to capture any photos of the ubiquitous daylilies, but here's an amazing view of downtown Madison from Lake Menona:)
I neglected to capture any photos of the ubiquitous daylilies, but here’s an amazing view of downtown Madison from Lake Menona:)
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