While winter in the Northeast may be dreary and frigid, Spring is a different experience entirely. Each season has its own smells. For me, Spring is full of earthy aromas. Whether it’s the woodsy, rich smell of freshly turned garden soil or the damp smell after a spring rain that makes me think of worms, the heady fragrances of spring-blooming trees and shrubs take precedence.
I do enjoy seeing the bulbs grow and bloom but I have to say hyacinths, though pretty, are far too pungent for my sensitive nose. I prefer subtle scents and lilacs fit that bill for me. Lilacs have woven themselves into various parts of my life beginning when I was just a tyke. Picture a vacant field, maybe the size of a large back yard. An eight foot barrier of arborvitae protect the field from the dead-end street. Beyond the hedge is a magical play land.
It even has a name. It’s called the “lot.” Not very original but it had enchanting properties. Many a game was enjoyed there: kickball, baseball, football. The field of my youthful athletic pursuits was covered unevenly with grass, weeds, dirt patches, and was bordered by patches of rhubarb and lilac bushes. A memory emerges of a warm spring afternoon full of that strong, new spring sun. Kids sit around spent after vigorous play, quietly picking apart sprigs of lilac. I was told if I sucked on the small end of the individual flower, I might get some nectar. It was true. It was a satisfying activity.
Lilacs smell like spring, slightly floral with an underlying sweetness. I grew up seeing the traditional violet and white but they do come in other colors, all beautiful. One of the first poems I learned in grade school was “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman. “—and from this bush in the dooryard,/With delicate-color’d blossoms…” In my mind I’m able to picture this expanse of lilac bush protecting the doorway of this old farmhouse. I didn’t know until I was in high school, and studied the poem again, that it was written in response to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. It is indeed a beautiful elegy, filled with emotion and grief.
When I was teaching, a house near the school had some lilac bushes in the front yard. As lost as I could become in the end of school year frenzy, it never failed to cheer me on those cool sunny spring mornings to drive by when the lilacs were in bloom. Waves of their scent washed over me as I drove by and I was transported back to the lot and then to class recitations of Whitman’s poems. Lilacs represent the best of what spring offers; the offer of lengthening days and and the bounty of summer to come. Lilacs represent hope and rebirth. Lilacs represent the baseball season and the promise of football season.
In the words of the Beatles: “Here comes the sun, and I say/It’s all right.” Play some classic tunes or turn on a ball game. Step outside and breathe in the richness of the spring air. Listen to a little CCR: “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today.” Embrace the season.