"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, May 18, 2008


The fragrance is sweeter than lavender, cleaner than gardenia, bursting with  the not quite filled promise of summer. Summer mornings saturated with the scent of  lilacs growing on the edge of a wild expanse of lawn provided respite from a childhood where days were nightmares and nights were dreams. The dew on the grass, the sun birthing into the sky over jagged distant hills, and the wild glory of that smell promised life and hope and the possibility of something other. These magical flowers made Mommy smile. They gave us something to love together when it was impossible to love each other.

The summer I was pregnant with Kathleen, alone and frightened in Spokane - the Lilac City - I walked the neighborhoods to escape the hellfire heat of my attic studio apartment. I walked to escape my life. I walked to escape the approaching day when I would no longer be pregnant and someone else would be my daughter's mother. 

For two months I walked. Most of that time I was kept company by the ancient lilacs lining the picket fences lining the sidewalks surrounding beautiful old homes. The bushes would offer me their blossoms over the fences and I would bury my face in the sweet purple heads. I breathed in all of that promised summer joy, and offered it to my unborn daughter. Often I would find myself walking away with a flower still in my hand, not quite aware of having broken it off. I would spend the rest of my walk inhaling the early summer air through its perfume.  

I've planted a variety of lilacs in the sprawling yard of this home I've lived in for sixteen years. There is an historical lilac garden not far from us - one of my favorite spring outings. Every time I visit, a baby comes home with me. Often these plants are twigs with only a few leaves - truly infants - but they come from heirloom stock. The variety is breathtaking. Every shade of purple possible. Pinks. Whites. Two-toned. Fragrances ranging from heavy perfume to light spritz. I always seek out the ones whose aromatic songs take me directly to the lilacs of my childhood summers.

I planted one of the bushes in a flower bed on the front of the house, thinking it was just until it was big enough to put somewhere more suitable. I wanted to keep an eye on it, and not lose it in the wilds of my on-a-whim planting areas. That was five years ago. The bush loved that spot, and last year gave me a handful of lush, deeply fragrant light lavender flowers. This year it exploded in purple glory.  And gave me this gift:

The first very hot night of the year. Unseasonably hot. I've gone to bed with the windows wide open, the sky still light. I lie propped against my pillows, lightly covered by a store-bought quilt that I don't mind sharing with three of my four cats. A breeze tiptoes into the room as I bask in the perfection of the moment, carrying with it a perfumed message from the lilac bush just outside. 

Summer will always come. Even in the midst of pain, uncertainty, a dangerously shifting landscape, summer will come. I promise.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Print this out, and the next time you doubt that you have what it takes to make your living being a writer, READ IT! The proof is all here.


Now whenever I smell lilac I'll think of you (and I can smell them right now, we have a tree in full bloom in the backyard).


Jerri said...

"They gave us something to love together when it was impossible to love each other."

The proof Carrie mentions is in this sentence and many others in this piece.

Summer does come, doesn't it?

kario said...

So funny - I was listening to a radio station that I never listen to on my way to the store today and the song that came on was "Why Worry" by Dire Straits. I haven't heard that song since I was in college and the lyrics really threw me:

"there should be laughter after pain, there should be sunshine after rain.
These things have always been the same.
So why worry now?"

You're right. Summer will come.


La La said...

YES. YES. YES. You are a writer and you CAN make a living writing. This piece belongs in publication in a magazine or part of an anthology.

You write superbly!!!

Really. I cry reading your writing because it's so damn GOOD! The beauty makes me cry!!!

FrecklesandDeb said...

You've done it again. Another splendid piece. And on lilacs, my favorite flower!

grammer said...

Deb, this feels so good, so anchored, and so sweet. It's real. It's got sweat, fragrance, heat, cool, kitties (always a plus in my book), conflict, anticipation, sorrow, and hope. I wouldn't change a word. Well done. xo t

Anonymous said...

Lilacs are my all time favorite flower. Growing up, there was a huge tree under my bedroom window, the magical scents helped make everything ok.
Each time I read one of your posts, I am touched deep down inside. Your writing is breathtaking.
Thanks for the needed reminder that summer will come, it really will.

1933margaret said...

Absolutely Beautiful. You are incredible. I loved reading your post. I miss you.

1933margaret said...
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1933margaret said...
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1933margaret said...

Beautiful. I love reading your posts. I miss you.

Jess said...

Beautiful. I love lilacs, they remind me of my mother taking me to arboretum in May when I was little.

Beautifully written.

M said...

The entry is beautiful...like the flowers that you love and the heart that you bear. I've missed reading your blogs and I'm glad I came on tonight to catch up.

I could almost smell the lilacs from home myself as I read your words. They ignited one of those deep recesses of the brain that carry the childhood memories of yesteryear.

Thank you for sharing your gift.