The scent of lilac on the breeze immediately takes me back to the memories and emotions of adolescence, the time of my life when I first began to appreciate the fleeting nature of time and the reality of mortality.
Lilacs have always been a beloved part of my life; we had them on the farm when I was growing up, they are (or were) practically everywhere in southern Wisconsin. Lilacs want a cold winter to do well and bloom their best, they are not often seen in the south; my husband met them for the first time when he moved here from Baton Rouge.
There are dozens of lilac varieties, they come in all shades of purple, lavender, pink, blue, and white. I've even heard of cream and yellow ones. There are trade offs for some of the colors, though -- they don't have that wonderful scent, or have just a hint of it.
The lilac of my childhood, the one with the lovely smell, and that which grows now in my yard during my 59th spring is the old-fashioned kind, Syringa Vulgaris, the common lilac. I have several, some grown from shoots from the older plants. They are so easy to get started, just dig up a shoot, plant it in a new location, and within a couple years, it will give you flowers. They don't ask for much, just full sun, adequate water, and a kind word.
Lilacs bloom in May for a week or two, a time when students are antsy, bored with school, and anxious for summer. I was about 15, sitting in class daydreaming, gazing out the open window at the lilacs and breathing in their scent, thoroughly enjoying them. Those are such emotional years, every discovery is huge, everything requires drama. The realization came to me, for the first time, that I might die of something and never get to see the lilacs again, never smell them again. Although I already had plenty of experience with death, it always involved animals or other people, it hadn't occurred to me before that it could happen to me. The concept struck hard and very deep, it was a coming of age of sorts, and it made me quite sad for awhile. But it also made me realize that we must appreciate what we have, what's around us, now while it is here and while we are here to enjoy it, not later when it's gone.
That first blush of lilac bloom each spring, the first whiff of fragrance on the breeze, always reminds me of that day. But it's not a sad memory any more, it's a reminder to make every moment count, to take advantage of the opportunities that are around us, to appreciate the beauty and all the good things that we have in our lives right now. I think when we do that, we become happier people.
© 2013 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.
Photo 1: Canon 5D Mark III, 180mm L lens, ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/200
Photo 2: Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70 L lens, ISO 800, f/8, 1/125