Spring failed me for a long time this year.

Snow fell far too long.

Ground remained frozen.

Cold killed a row of daffodils.

Pounding weeks of rain delayed the landscaping project.

My anticipation for spring’s glorious colors, buried itself beneath the mulch.

And it’s just as well because life turned hectic. Editorial deadlines swamped me. Finding reliable painters turned into relentless phone tag. The roof sprung a leak. Cliff landed in the hospital twice.

I felt discombobulated and couldn’t put my finger on it until I followed our dog around the corner of the house.

The scent of lilacs swept me away. If you love lilacs, you understand surrendering to them. I know there are calendar holidays requiring specifically colored frou-frou. We all have bins and boxes of items that we tie and swirl all over the house, only to be repackaged and pushed backed into the closet.

But lilacs–real lilacs–are their own holiday. They defy boxes. We stand transfixed before them, savoring that once-a-year sweetness.

For the young, the petals whisper romantic secrets. They mirror what could be.

For the old, the petals recall past dreams, lovely moments. They mirror what was.

When I volunteered with a group of women housed in assisted living, I took a bouquet of lilacs to a meeting. They passed it around the table, enjoying the smell of lilac love. One-by-one, they spoke of lilac bushes they had known.

Each lilac bush from a place, now far away, carried a vivid memory too precious to forget. Ever.

So we sang an old song from days when they were young and willing, happy and hopeful. Our voices rose to “Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do.” To my surprise, a woman with severe memory loss who never spoke, still held the lilacs and sang with us, remembering every word. My colleague raised her eyebrows at me, barely able to believe this breakthrough moment.

That is the power of lilacs. Each spring their unforgettable scent pulls us through frozen ground, frozen dreams, frozen minds. Their scent calls to our spirits.

In my frenzied whirl this spring, they finally bloomed in their own time, knowing I would find them. Eventually.

I did.

I met the deadlines. The tree got planted. We found painters, who also knew how to repair the roof. All those doctors patched Cliff up, good as new.

Once more, in the spring I almost missed, lilacs saved me.

And my heart turned lavender all over again.

15 thoughts on “Lilac Love

    1. I’d count peonies right along with lilacs. When I was little girl on Decoration Day, as it was once called, we put peonies in jars and coffee cans covered in foil. We took them to the country cemeteries where several generations of relatives were buried. It was my job in the backseat to keep the flowers from tipping over on the floorboards and losing water. Surrounded by their rich perfume, I was in heaven.

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  1. Karen, I absolutely love this. I have always loved lilacs, and after reading your article I will never be able to think of them without thinking of all the memories that they bring up. Thank you so much for the reminder and I thank God for every year I am alive to be able to smell the lilacs.

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    1. Of course I’m glad you read this because you alone know that Maria, the dog we both love, led me to them. She loves that lilac bush because chipmunks hide beneath it. She races to catch one, but they escape down their hole beneath the branches every time.

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  2. I know exactly what you mean about lilacs… Ours are pretty much done though it is surprising to me that even as they turn brown and dry up, their scent is still present.
    Glad to hear all of your stuff worked out!
    Happy end of spring (now that summer is knocking hard on the door!)

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      1. I figured yours must be as well 🙂
        And, unless you are my sister, who gets headaches from “stinky” (her words) flowers, then yes, they are absolutely a universal joy!

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  3. This makes me feel about hyacinths after reading
    “And of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
    two loaves alone to thee are left,
    Sell one, and with the dole
    Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”
    ……thought to be written by
    13th century Persian poet Saadi which also
    makes me think of the way you write.

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    1. I love knowing you found a connection when you read this, Steve. My time with those ladies was powerful because I got the chance to help them find themselves. Songs were often a significant way to reach their memories. I know it’s a challenge.

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  4. Oh, lilacs! They are blooming here now. It’s been black and brown so long. Turning a corner and seeing them simply perks me right up. Lovely writing. You always get me to stop, reflect, and enjoy. Thank you!

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    1. Perfect. Thank you for letting me know because that’s my intent, based on the lower left Roald Dahl quotation that “the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” Simple, lovely magic.

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    1. It means so much that you take time to read my posts. We were teenagers once upon a time, with romantic dreams of our own. I find myself reaching back to those days, writing and remembering. No one ever had brown eyes like yours. I imagine that’s still true.

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