As social media editor for Escape into Life, I’m celebrating an entire month of May flowers on EIL’s Twitter feed. Today, after reading and sharing poetry editor Kathleen Kirk’s spellbinding second installment of a multi-part essay she is writing as she listens to Lincoln in the Bardo on CD (yes, another book now on my must-read list—definitely not what I needed), I was reminded of the lilacs in her first installment – both in her own poem and her link to Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”
So I rushed outside to get a picture of one of my own lilacs, and now I am pondering the fleeting nature of lilacs and the need to enjoy them in the moment.
If you’re not a gardener who loves to bring your own blooms inside, you might not know that lilacs do not perform well once cut and placed in water. It’s terribly hard to get them to last more than 24 hours; they just wilt and shrivel up. I believe this is because of their woody nature; they simply don’t do a good job pulling in water to support the blooms once cut. (The Chicago Botanic Garden offered tips this year to make them last longer; this advice did not work for me.)
So if you’re a lover of lilacs, it’s really important to notice them in bloom and be mindful to enjoy them. Stop; stand; breathe in that amazing scent; simply enjoy… for 30 seconds, a minute, whatever time you can afford.
This is an opportunity for letting go of worries and hurries, a call to simply live in your moment and be happy. May is Mental Health Month. May flowers call you to mindfulness.
Alas, it’s too cold right now for lying in my hammock, even bundled in sweatshirts and blankets as I often do. So instead I took a walk around my house to find more flowers to share with you. This is not one of those Spring moments when my garden is utterly bathed in blooms, but still I found it rich with offerings; I just needed to pay attention.
My most fragrant lilac (therefore I must admit my favorite) did not, in fact, drop all of its blooms in this past week of rain, but is still blooming gloriously at its top and seems lush from a distance. The much smaller white lilac (fragrant but less so) is in its prime, as is the scentless but striking purple-and-white hybrid I photographed earlier for the Twitterverse.
Elsewhere we have pink bleeding hearts; tiny Lily of the valley and purple violets; tulips red, white, yellow and variegated, plus more getting ready to open; salmon-colored flowering quince; dusty pink Lenten roses; Virginia bluebells; the lovely yellow blooms that sit atop Snow-on-the-mountain; and next door, my neighbor’s beautiful deep purple iris.
The smallest allium are just starting to unfurl, and I know the peonies won’t be far behind. And still hanging on are the last, most sturdy of the bold white tulips I love and the all-white Mount Hood daffodils that were my father’s favorites.
My garden reminds me of my family. Usually of my mother, who taught me most of what I know about growing things outside, but also my father, my grandmother, my son and husband, and relatives and friends who have donated cuttings or accepted my gifts of plants over the years. Every time I see a butterfly, I am reminded of the friend who told me of her family’s version of the legend that butterflies carry the souls of the dead. In her version, the first butterfly you see after a loved one’s death is that loved one returning to you. And so every time I see the small white butterflies that are ubiquitous here in summertime, I am reminded of my mother, and I hope this legend to be true, and I silently say, “Hi, Mom.” And this brings happiness.
May is also the month of Mother’s Day, which is coming up soon. I will see or talk to my son, and I will think of my mother, and my grandmother, and my husband’s mother as well. And perhaps I will cook a meal that includes one recipe handed down from each of them, and perhaps I will send those recipes to my sister, to make sure she has them to hand down to her children as well.
If I’m lucky, very lucky, I’ll see a small white butterfly, and I’ll quietly say, “Hi, Mom.”