Wednesday, June 03, 2009


This is high holy lilac country here in The 'Kan EWA. I suppose it's the good hard freeze that provides the nice dormancy those woody stems need to set blooms. But whatever it is, we grow lots and lots of lilacs here and in fact, have nick named our self The Lilac City. Heady stuff.

When I was in high school, I played the flute and marched in the Coeur d'Alene High School Marching Band. Every year at this time we'd pack up base drums and the tubas, we called 'em tubas then, and head to The 'Kan EWA for the Lilac Armed Forces Torchlight Parade where we would march up and down the streets of downtown in between the floats and military units. The closer I got to graduation the dorkier it was to march in the band and just about everybody had more fun in the band than I did but still, I was a four year veteran of playing first chair flute and count those parade marches under the starry spring night skies of The 'Kan EWA as some of my favorite memories of back in the day. And it was all about the lilacs.

One morning in May 1980, I got up really early and drove my truck out past north Mead, where I had located 3 dozen bareroot lilacs. Dark purple. I wanted a lilac hedge that would span the back line of my property so I went out there, took all those bushes bareroot out of wet bark and brought them home and planted them. Toward mid morning the sky turned really dark; ominous yet no signs of rain nor clouds really. Just ominous. It was an eerie pall that cast itself over the gazebo and the fish pond but I just kept plugging those holes I had dug the day before with steer manure, peat moss and bare root lilacs. By 11 am, the phone was ringing off the hook with the news that Mt. St. Helens had blown up and that dark sky was volcanic ash getting ready to settle itself into my life--in my garden, on my driveway, atop my roof and in every nook, cranny and crevice of my pores, my sinuses and my every open orifice and those of my two little kids and my dogs. So I kept planting. Didn't have much time and I had to get all 36 of those lilacs in the ground. I finished just in time. It got pitch dark by 1 o'clock in the afternoon. We waited for something horrific to happen but it never did; we woke up the next morning to 8 inches of gray, powdery volcanic ash covering everything. Our entire world. And all 36 of my new lilac bushes. I had no idea if they would survive. Sometime after that I got a divorce and we moved away from that house but as luck would have it, I drive by it at least twice a day. It still has the most fabulous, enormous hedge of lilacs in back. Dark purple. It was the volcanic ash that sent those lilacs heavenward and kept them a bionic presence on Rockwood Boulevard all these years, where they were blooming today.

I had another baby and twenty years later he moved to London. It was in the glory days of terrorism and I worried about him hourly for the first six months he was there. Never occurred to me he might be homesick--in fact, I probably didn't care if he was homesick. I was completely absorbed with his safety. After his first Christmas there, I relaxed and began to settle into life without my happy, busy youngest child. As I missed him the most, in April, he wrote me a note and said that he was a homesick as he had been in London, at almost a year after he arrived. He was walking along the Thames well into his morning routine one day and all of a sudden, he smelled them. Couldn't see them, but he smelled lilacs and he was immediately taken back to his bedroom in The 'Kan EWA, where the scent of lilacs wafts upward from the garden beneath his window. He misses the lilacs still and told me a week ago or so that he misses the spring work in the garden and the feel of freshly turned spring soil and the smell of lilacs that is ever present, everywhere here at Bellemaison this time of year.

My favorite these days are Korean lilacs. They are smaller, lighter in color but have a powerful, pungent lilac smell that I can catch in the air 200 yards down the street. Korean lilacs are a change up for me; I like big, bushy well pruned dark purple lilacs. But now, I am different. Things have changed and will change again. And probably again. But my life is bookmarked by certain irrevocable events and if there are lilacs in the air, for me, surely it's May and will be, for all time.


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA

5 comments:

inlandempiregirl said...

I LOVE this blog post. It says so much about life with lilacs. Could it be that two north Idaho girls played flute in their respective bands and probably marched in the Torchlight Parade at the same time? I was sometimes first chair, but not always.I tried to plant lilacs down our driveway here, but water restrictions kept the hedge from happening. I love that you can drive by and see those same lilacs you wrote about. What memories!

raymond pert said...

I've just been in a fun discussion with a KHS Class of '70 graduate about a fellow band member who marched in the Torchlight Parade in his white socks because he forgot his white shoes. I don't remember how I marched in the parade, but it was thrilling...really felt like a big deal...I was not in the flute section, but the low brass section as a baritone horn player...your lovely writing bout lilacs evokes deep feeling in me...even in the Silver Valley with its miasma of toxins, the lilacs sweetened the foul air with sweet fragrance.

It's Just Me said...

I love the lilacs too - when we moved into our current house we had no lilacs. Our previous house had 2 big hedges of them and I just had to have lilacs here. My Son came in from outside one day and said "Mom, there is a lilac bush behind the shop" - couldn't believe it. I think someone just threw it there and it took hold? So we set out to move it. He and I together got it out and moved it to a new spot where it could be seen and smelled. That was about 4 years ago - my husband kept telling us it wasn't going to make it. It did look sickly, but got better each year - this year it REALLY went crazy and had a ton of blooms on it. We had them in our house and our neighbors did too!. I did buy 2 other bushes too after transplanting the throw away and am content and at home now that I have my lilacs.

I could smell lilacs reading your post! Thank you!

Yolanda said...

I loved this post too. I love the picture of your dog as well.

MarmiteToasty said...

This post is beautiful, as are you..

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