The bitter chill of winter is balanced by the blooms of amaryllis. Every year they assertively bloom on our kitchen table reminding us that spring will indeed one day be here again.
From Virgil’s Eclogues, we learn that the amaryllis is named after a shy shepherdess, named Amaryllis, who fell in love with Alteo, as handsome as Apollo and as strong as Hercules. Alteo really only cared for his flowers and plants and scorned all those who adored him. He announced that he would only give his heart to the one who discovered a new and amazing flower. Amaryllis visited the Oracle at Delphi for advice and learned that she needed to stand at the doorway of Alteo’s house each night, call his name, and if he didn’t respond to take a golden arrow and pierce her heart.
For twenty-nine evenings she pierced her heart and on the thirtieth, Alteo finally opened his door and where the blood from her heart spilled, beautiful flowers grew, which, of course, she offered to Alteo. Some versions of the myth have them sharing their first kiss at this moment. Other versions have her dying from so much loss of blood. Nonetheless, both versions have to do with the heat of passion. Anything to melt frigid and warm up these chilly days.
Denise Levertov has the bold, self-confident, assertive, and insistent blooming of the amaryllis right on target in her “The Metier of Blossoming”:
Fully occupied with growing--that's the amaryllis. Growing especially at night: it would take only a bit more patience than I've got to sit keeping watch with it till daylight; the naked eye could register every hour's increase in height. Like a child against a barn door, proudly topping each year's achievement, steadily up goes each green stem, smooth, matte, traces of reddish purple at the base, and almost imperceptible vertical ridges running the length of them: Two robust stems from each bulb, sometimes with sturdy leaves for company, elegant sweeps of blade with rounded points. Aloft, the gravid buds, shiny with fullness. One morning--and so soon!--the first flower has opened when you wake. Or you catch it poised in a single, brief moment of hesitation. Next day, another, shy at first like a foal, even a third, a fourth, carried triumphantly at the summit of those strong columns, and each a Juno, calm in brilliance, a maiden giantess in modest splendor. If humans could be that intensely whole, undistracted, unhurried, swift from sheer unswerving impetus! If we could blossom out of ourselves, giving nothing imperfect, withholding nothing!