In Edmonton where the winters are very cold and can last into early April the lilacs bloom heartily and they are sweet smelling. A childhood memory is cutting down the tall stalks from the ancient bushes across the street from my home. I made leis and crowns of the little blossoms that I plucked from the frond, like pinching bits of cotton candy from the cone.
The common name of lilac is derived from the Persian word for blue. Here is why:
Where they grow native, a lilac bush will appear in ordinary spaces making them extra-ordinary for a short period of time. I’ve seen a single bush soften the harshness of concrete and metal with the wanton splay of branches, laden with French white lilac blooms. Syrina Vulgaris is native to the Balkan Peninsula where it grows on rocky slopes. Perhaps it is the lilacs’ nature after all.
T.S. Eliot used lilac in two of his poems: “Portrait of a Lady” and “The Waste Land”. In the latter he recognizes the lilacs by…
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
a little further on…
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.
This lilac that has captured my imagination since childhood is more than sweet and heady.
I had to write this last blog because spring is upon us and the lilacs are ephemeral. Since living in LA I’ve been chasing lilacs. There are two places to lose one’s self in lilac dreams. In a few weeks time, by Easter perhaps, they’re expected to come out in blue splendor at Kilcoyne Lilac Farm in Acton, CA. (http://www.kilcoynelilacfarm.com). I just bought a dual membership for Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, CA (https://www.descansogardens.org) where the lilacs started blooming in early March (https://www.nbclosangeles.com/the-scene/purple-for-a-gray-day-lilacs-make-their-descanso-debut/2540949/).
CREDIT ELISE SULLIVAN