A Lily Underground

Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies, for instance.

— John Ruskin

If you have only two pennies left in the world, with the first penny, you should buy rice to feed your family. With the second penny, say the wise Japanese, you should buy a lily. The Japanese understand the importance of dreaming.

— Annie Walker, Lilies: Words and Music, 1999

It was rush hour. I was sprinting through the Times Square subway station, running down a short flight of stairs, when something bright caught my eye.

It was a flower — a stem of yellow lilies — stuck into some metal duct-work at the ceiling. There, against the dirty, peeling paint, was a small, cheerful beacon, a sweet surprise and a reminder of spring and beauty and hope.

I paused for a moment, fired off a couple of shots with my cell phone, and kept going. There was no time to linger, but I couldn’t resist turning around for a final, blurry photo of the lily underground. Then I ran for my train.

Lily in Times Square Station
The lily in Times Square Station

In Times Square Station
The yellow flower in the duct-work

Inside the Times Square Station
A final glimpse of the lily

  • Annie Walker
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