Lilies of the Valley, A Symbol of Peace

Mindful Symbols

I am a big believer in the power of symbolism be it a phrase, an icon, or a flower. Mindful symbols root us and feed our souls.

When my daughter Emma was an infant, we put wallpaper in her bedroom. Lilies of the valley on a cream background with pink accents. For the poet William Blake, lilies symbolized pure love. In Greek mythology, the lily is a symbol of purity and innocence. For me the wallpaper had similar meanings, but mostly it was a mindful symbol of serenity. We spent countless afternoons and evenings in her room, reading picture books by Patricia Polacco. We also pictured  Miss Rumphius sowing lupine seeds along a rocky shoreline again and again. I don’t have a four-color image of her wallpaper, but the photo of Emma on the left captures the spirit of her room. That soft afternoon light on the walls made the room magic.

Emma age two looking out her bedroom window

When Emma turned 13, she begged me for grown-up wallpaper and I acquiesced. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t. She’s in college now, and I long to sit in her room surrounded by lilies of the valley. I can only be fully immersed in those childhood moments with that wallpaper. It was the first thing I chose when we decorated her room. I sat beside Emma a thousand times surrounded by the gentle pattern on the walls. Writing at her desk today, I am looking at the green polka dots she chose to replace the lilies of the valley. With the first strip of wallpaper pasted over the lilies, we left fairies behind and moved into the teen years where the symbols were not always welcoming.

I would give anything to lay beside the five-year-old Emma and read Emily. It is a beautifully written and illustrated story of a meeting between Emily Dickinson and a young neighbor. The child brings Emily a gift of lily bulbs, and Emily writes her a poem:

Who has not found the Heaven-below

Will fail of it above

For Angels rent the House next ours,

Wherever we remove.picture books



The book is on a dresser in Emma’s room. It is a mindful symbol of our time among the lily of the valley and picture books.