Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Spring, and a middle-aged woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of lilacs

Ah, silence. I am home alone. All day. Yesterday, too. What a treat! My husband and his pals are out enjoying the first rockhounding weekend of the season: May Two-Four, as it is known colloquially, or the Victoria Day holiday.

Rarely do I have a large block of time to myself. Being in “each other’s pockets” day in and day out is a mixed blessing. He enjoys my company, and I enjoy his, but not 24/7. With winter being as long as it was, you can imagine that our tempers were threadbare by the end of winter.

But I didn’t come here to grumble about matrimonial conflict. Today, it would seem, I am meant to talk about lilacs.

You see, another personal tradition related to the May 24 weekend is that this is the time when the lilacs bloom. If you live in southern Ontario, that is. Up here, the trees are barely in bud.  And no, I’m not here to grumble about northern Ontario weather, either. But I cannot help but equate the long weekend with lilacs and therefore with firecracker day. A very big deal in my childhood.

Paris lilacs – “it smells purple around here.”

This morning, social media reminded me that I once lived where it “smelled purple.” Northern lilacs are hardier, but to my nose, less fragrant than the southern varieties. Clumps of white or lavender lilac plants can be found just about anywhere up here, but they are demure, not flashy showstoppers like their southern counterparts. Maybe that’s why I have never felt compelled to take a picture of the lilacs in our yard. Not dazzling enough. Not long-blooming enough. Upstaged by the yellow ladyslipper orchids, perhaps.

And speaking of yellow showstoppers, I read Susan Rushton’s recent post about Lady Banks’ Rose. A gorgeous rambling number that can completely conceal a wall. In Arizona, a specimen of the white form has been around since 1885. Can you imagine?

In reply to my comment, Susan said, “I often think roses are a bit like pets because they have lived alongside people for centuries as plant companions, although if that were the case, this rose would be a pet elephant.”

That was when I remembered walking along a busy street in London, Ontario, and being stopped in my tracks by an ancient, gnarled lilac tree, one with an enormous girth. I stared at it, and felt compelled to respond to it, just as if it had reached out and said, “Hello, I have a message for you.”

Whenever I see a large specimen of a tree or plant, I feel that I am in the presence of a sacred being.

I still haven’t figured out what that lilac was trying to say.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say by writing today, but let me reach out, share a slice of my life here in the north, and bid you a happy May 24 long weekend.

Lilac buds – eternal hopes of spring

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45 replies

  1. I love lilacs and their scent. Not so crazy about cleaning up their “droppings” from the floor, mind you. Enjoy your “May-24.” I’m locked indoors working on a project.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah-ha, another Venus and Mars gender difference. You have the house to yourself, and you’re not gorging on take-out Chinese while binge-watching incredibly lame movies and TV shows? 😉

    I do miss those wonderful lilacs from up north. My mother would always cut some of them off and place them in vases alll around our home. Their always smell reminded me of spring and summer. Enjoy that bachelor time, Maggie! – Marty

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  3. The finishing photo is mesmerizing in its detail. If it makes you feel any better, no lilacs are blooming in Ottawa because it’s been too cold and wet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We don’t have lilacs down here in sunny Florida, but we do have wisteria. Lots and lots of wisteria. OMG..the wisteria! We had one growing up a huge old oak tree on the side of our house. I loved it. I would come home, around the corner, and see the lavender flowers blooming high up in that old oak tree. And then the neighbor’s young girlfriend decided to help her lover boy clean up the yard. Whacked every damn thing on the side of the house, including the wisteria. The tree saddles both of our yards, so all I could do was mourn quietly, but gosh I do miss that wisteria.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GAH! I would have been heartbroken, too, Lois. After, that is, I entertained thoughts of revenge.

      I recall an old wisteria that had outlived it’s trellis. The supports had long ago rotted away, but the vines had formed themselves in such a way and the wisteria stood independently. What a sight!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love lilacs Maggie. We don’t have many close by, but my youngest lives a few cities over in an older part of town and there’s an abundance of lilac bushes, place old stately homes. A great place to walk!
    My lavender is ready to bloom just outside my front door. I can hardly wait. The bees are anxious as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We don’t have lilacs here in SoCal so, unfortunately, I can’t smell the scent of purple you enjoy. Enjoy your me time… I envy you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My lilacs started to bloom, then colder weather moved in and they’re kind of un hold for now. Can’t wait to bring in my first bouquet.

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  8. Lilacs are my favorites although they do make me sneeze. It is always nice to have the house to yourself every now and then.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. May 24 weekend was always the time the bridal wreath spirea bloomed at the side of my driveway at one house I lived in. I don’t remember lilacs blooming on that particular weekend at another house, but my backyard was full of them and I loved their scent, along with the lily of the valley behind the garage. I doubt any of these plants are blooming this weekend. Spring has been cold and wet, even in southern Ontario.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It was saying “Oh, if only someone would write about me !” – and you have thus satsfied its longing, Maggie. Goodonyermate !
    There was what we call a banksia rose at my last unit, and it got on top of me (so to speak): just grew and grew, and monthly choppage left almost no trace. I moved there when its flowering season was finishing and left before it started again. I’m sure it was beautiful …

    Liked by 1 person

    • [grins] Only thirty years after the fact, but better late than never, right?

      Now that I think of it, there was a yellow rambler at a house down the road where I used to live. It had grown up right through the pavement. THAT’s persistence!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Our lilacs are beginning to fade. I love the look and the smell. I love “it smells purple…” that’s truly delightful, Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Maggie, Lilacs are so beautiful and the photo does them justice. Have a lovely “ by yourself” weekend. Well deserved after the confines winters bring! 📚🎶 Christine

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  13. Lilacs are my favourite. When the lilacs are blooming, the scent in the air is divine!! Sadly, they aren’t blooming yet. Everything is way, way behind.

    I just finished 4 days alone with Gilles travelling and I LOVE the time he Is away. As you said – it’s quiet. Gloriously quiet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Four days. Hoo, boy. I don’t even want to imagine.


      • I admit that someday when he decides to retire, I’m going to find it hard. I may never get to watch a “girl’ movie again 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • If I may offer some advice – if you don’t already have a room of your own, make it happen. My “office” is a corner of the kitchen/dining area. It’s spacious, but wide open. I can’t close the door. Because there is no door.


          • It’s great advice and I’m already there. Like you, my personal space for the past 8 years was the dining room table and I hated it. It’s hard to be creative in an open space that requires clean up as soon as possible and complete pack-up whenever anyone came over.

            Last summer I carved out a corner of the basement as my space. It was the only alternative I could come up with and I wasn’t sure I would like it down here … but I do!
            I can leave it as messy as I want with half a dozen projects going at the same time. I have a big U-space work area with storage space and it’s quiet! Often Theo will come downstairs and sleep beside me while I work. It’s my happy place 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  14. In the backyard of the first house I bought were many lilac bushes…big old bushes, huge mounds of fragrant blossoms. They were hard to leave when I got married and moved away 2 years later. At this house there were no lilacs. I used to drive around looking for old homesteads to snip a few and put them in a vase on my counter where they inevitably wilted by the end of the day. Still, I loved those lilacs. Three years ago my husband bought a lilac on sale at the end of summer and planted it in the yard for me. Sweet man. I had never said anything about missing them, he just noticed. This spring I have blossoms of my own, no need to steal any from some ghost on abandoned land.

    And yes, I LOVE it when I have a whole day to myself!


  15. Peace and quiet and lilacs. Sounds lovely to me. Where we lived when I was a girl we had a lilac bush. The color of purple was intense as was the scent. I’ve lived nowhere else with a lilac bush, so for me the mention of them reminds me of childhood. And goofing off. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Time to myself is very important to me. I would be nuts indoors in winter with another person always present. That is amazing about the rosebush being around since 1885. I cut several bushes way down last year and they came back. I guess they are pretty hardy.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. That last photo is breathtaking…

    Liked by 1 person

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