One might be hard pressed if asked to pick a favorite peak time of any season. Especially spring. Spring is a veritable kaleidoscope of nature with its parade of colors, smells and sounds. The annual renewal of life around us after winter’s frozen cloak retreats is a feast of sensuous treasures. The jewel in the crown of spring has got to be the lilac. Nothing can quite compare with its sweet perfume that fills the air with fragranced breezes. The sight of the shapely plants with their rich hued clusters of blossoms and green heart shaped leaves can transport you through time, yet soothe you in the wonder of being in the moment.
The drive from Washington D.C. to Vermont was long when we were children. It could easily take between ten to twelve hours, including the insufferable rest stops on the turnpike for Mom to rest her eyes for a bit from the concentration of driving. There were six of us with her, each taking turns with who could ride in the front seat. We often made the trip at night and I would love to sit in front on the window side- my head against the glass. I’d watch the reflectors on stakes along the roadway and I’d imagine myself being able to hop along the tops of them- mile after mile with tireless effort. It was extra nice if the weather was rainy and the metronome sound of the windshield wipers added an energizing soundtrack to my silent game. If I couldn’t sit in the front helping to keep my mother awake, my second favorite place to ride would be on the shelf behind the back seats looking up at the stars in the dark skies through the sloping glass of the real windshield. Hard to believe we were once that small. Going home to our grandmother’s house in the country was always excitement we could barely contain. Towards the end of the long drive, we could always tell when we entered Vermont because the lines down the middle of the roads turned from white to a golden yellow at the state line.
Lilacs were everywhere around her house. They grew tall at the front corner over the old porch and near the bay window. They grew on the banks of the duck pond. Long before, someone had planted lilacs to mark the property lines. Perhaps my great grandparents planted some of them. Lilacs can live for hundreds of years. It is believed they first appeared in America in the mid-1700’s, coming from Europe or Asia. There are a thousand or more varieties, several different colors, some grow to 30 feet or more-some that are 3 or 4 feet tall, some bloom earlier-some bloom later, but usually in the month of May and early June. Our favorites from the early days with our grandmother are the deep purple intoxicating perfumed kind sometimes referred to as French Lilacs.
As the last lilacs of the season are coming to finish, today the town held a memorial to honor a local legend in the covered bridge museum which he founded. He was akin to the lore of Johnny Appleseed, but John Dostal made it his mission to plant lilacs (over 500) throughout the town he adopted as home. He bought and planted the beautiful trees as a gift to the community. John Dostal died in early spring at the age of 98- a local hero.
‘In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle……and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.’
[An exert from ‘Memories of President Lincoln’ by Walt Whitman, 1865]
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