Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Stopping to smell the lilacs

Spring is my favorite season, and my favorite days of spring are the ones in which the lilacs are in bloom. They are dainty, fragrant blossoms in lovely shades of purple and white. On a breezy day, you can enjoy the scent of a lilac bush from half a block away. Perhaps because Louisa May Alcott wrote a book titled “Under the Lilacs” or perhaps because Freddy Ainsforth Hill sings, “Are there lilac trees in the heart of town? .. No, they’re just on the street where you live.” in “My Fair Lady,” or because Walt Whitman makes reference to their heart-shaped leaves in “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed,” or maybe just because they bloom in spring, I have always considered lilacs to be old fashioned and romantic.

In college, for a screen-writing class, I wrote an “Anne of Green Gables”-inspired short script (called “Lilacs in the Park”) about a young, starry-eyed teacher who loves lilacs. It was a silly, sweet story, and maybe someday I will have an adolescent daughter who will appreciate it -- it is certainly not ready for prime time.

This year, the lilacs have been lovely, but I have had few opportunities to enjoy them because the weather has been unseasonably cold. A couple of times, I have ventured out on what I call “lilac walks” to drink in the glory of about a dozen lilac bushes within a few blocks of my apartment, but the chilly weather has masked their scent and made it uncomfortable to linger outdoors. Last evening was a tad warmer, so I wandered the streets of my neigborhood for about 45 minutes, searching out as many lilac bushes as I could find. I am fascinated by the subtle differences in the color and shape of the flowers from bush to bush, and after quite a bit of wandering, finally found a bush whose fragrance equalled my memories of the one in my grandparents’ back yard in my childhood years.

I often say that I go a tad crazy in spring, so obsessed am I with the rapid change in the landscape. I have mellowed a bit over the years, but still have to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road, instead of gazing at the dogwood trees and fiery azaleas as I drive past them. When I was a student in New York, I desperately missed the glories of spring, though I got small tastes of them in nearby parks and even tree-lined streets. Still, I am grateful to live now in place where I don’t have to search out nature, because it sits at my very doorstep.