Saturday, April 21, 2012

When lilacs last bloomed in the ... pick your spot. These are once the right lilacs and twice the wrong ones. Muskegon MI.


I am proposing today that all the satisfactions in life could be discussed by reflecting upon lilacs. A old theory floats around that joy can't be pursued. Joy shows up unexpectedly, so go about your business until it does. That old theory shows up as regularly as a rent payment or a presidential election cycle. People make their living talking about these bromines. Every generation has to hear them.  I have Facebook friends who post notions such as this one, using a pretty picture of a sundown or a lighthouse or whatever  juxtaposed with text. Maybe this changes the world, forwarding Facebook pictures with mottos.

Joy arrives unexpectedly and cannot be pursued. It's a notion as perennial as the flowering of lilacs in the spring, which is happening this sunny spring day, now a late afternoon.

So I was walking up the pavement to a bus stop at the top of the hill. I noticed a car with its windows rolled down after I heard its remote door locks chirp. I didn't see a person in the old model green Taurus with light accents of rust. It sat upon the dirt section of the Bingo Parlor parking lot, a weird lot always empty now that the bingo parlor had closed. I kept walking.

I turned around when I heard a rustling of branches and leaves and I beheld a woman emerging from a cluster of lilac bushes, thick with branches because no one trims this wild shrubbery on the east side of Grand Haven Road. A business building had been demolished behind this rank row of bush, long enough ago for the surfaced lot to grow meadow grasses. I shouted out a merry observation: "So that's where you went, harvesting wild lilacs!" She answered back, "And I went looking for wild mushrooms too but didn't find any yet". I was on the way to the bus stop and didn't want to give the woman too much unexpected attention. So I wished her a good day and she put her lilac bouquet in her car.

Reflecting as I reached the top of the hill, I realized I wanted to write about this unexpected happy moment, but she had driven away. I couldn't ask her to permit me to photograph her holding the fresh bouquet of purple flowerets. Her hands holding the bouquet I imagined as a beautiful picture. I imagined a better picture: smiling, her holding the bouquet as if I had been a close acquaintance. She made me wonder about her. What would it be like to share time with a woman who dove into lilac thickets to search for morels to accent her cookery? I think she got into the passenger side of her car before the car drove off, but I can't be sure.

So I knew I would see old lilacs in bloom around the Old Indian Cemetery, which stands across the street from the bus station. I have no idea how old were those lilacs growing in hedgerow between the cemetery and the new social security building. I guess both spots are where Elders are respected. Those lilac bushes could be as old as those lilac bushes growing on Mackinac Island? The cemetery had served as a burial grounds as early as 1750, so maybe. So I snapped a picture of those purple cones of flowerets to illustrate my writing.

I am certain, and I can smell them in my imagination, that my mother's lilacs are in blossom at the end of her gravel driveway. The flowering bushes can't be seen from the picture window in the kitchen because all the windows were boarded up this winter, at the insurance companies request when they paid a claim to fix damage from frozen pipes. I am wondering if my younger brother has gotten out there to drive the riding lawn mower around the expansive lawns.

How long until lilac season ends?

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