The sight and smell of lilacs transport me back to growing up on the North Dakota plains. They were ubiquitous, I’m not sure I can picture a farm yard without a couple of hardy lilacs somewhere in the scene; but they were also part of my specific landscape.
My childhood home had a long hedgerow of lilacs that ran along the back of our lot, forming the border between the civilized “yard” and wild beyond -an alley, then vacant land out to the railroad tracks. It was a hallmark of the turn from spring to summer when my mom set a big bunch of lilacs cut from the back yard on the kitchen table.
Lilacs also formed the outermost row of the shelterbelts at the Girl Scout camp where we spent nearly every summer weekend. I loved them there and still remember how surprised I was to discover that something I thought of as decorative and “fancy” was hardy enough to grow uncoddled, standing as a first line of defense against the elements.
Several years back, I started noticing the lilacs around town here in Washington. They’re not scarce once you start looking, but with all the rhododendrons in full bloom for the same stretch of May, they are rather overshadowed. And once I started looking… I’d get brave once or twice a year and discreetly stop to close my eyes and breathe deeply, escaping back to another time and place for a few moments before sneaking a couple tiny blossoms into my pocket to inhale later.
I’m not sure if my mom would have named lilacs as her favorite flower, but they are certainly one I associate strongly with her, partly because I know that she enjoyed having them around and partly because they are in peak bloom for Mother’s Day. I like to think it’s a little gift from mother nature to provide the perfect vehicle of escape just when I’d most like to crawl into a time machine. So this year on Mother’s Day, I planted three new time machines of my own.
It felt good to bring a little more “home” to this homestead.