Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Grandma’s Lilacs

April 8, 2012

 

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

  APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the   dead land, mixing
Memory and desire,   stirring
Dull roots with   spring rain.
Winter kept us warm,   covering
Earth in forgetful   snow, feeding
A little life with dried   tubers.

–T. S. Eliot

 

 

 

I round the corner of my house with the lawn mower this evening and I’m met with an overwhelming sense of my grandmother. Her lilacs are blooming and their scent brings her right to my face. Years ago, she planted the bushes from several slips her mother had given her. She told me the story of the lilac’s trip east. She carried them with their roots wrapped in wet newspaper and as soon as she and Grandpa arrived home, they dug holes and planted the slips in the ground, one at the back corner of the house, one next to the back porch, and one at the pig pen. She planted them in the fall, when they could set their roots and rest over winter. By spring, she said, they were settled and ready to grow. Her lilacs are tall and full now, their roots run deep.

I stop mowing. The soft green leaves of the lilac press into my face; the sweet smell that always reminds me of my grandmother envelops me. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and stand with the lawn mower vibrating in my hands.

I remember her clipping bunches of the blossoms when I was a little girl. She’d set them in a quart mason jar on the kitchen table, filling the house with their perfume. I’d press my face into their lavender blooms then too.

“There’s no better spring fragrance,” she’d said. “When you get old enough to have a house of your own with a yard, I’ll give you a slip from my lilac.”

Sometimes, I helped her weed, prune and tend her perennial and annual beds. I handed her the clippers or trowel. I’d run to fill the watering can with water from the well.  I got my knees and fingernails dirty digging in the warm, rich soil. We knelt, side by side in reverent homage to the gifts of the land.

I wanted a slip from all her flowers. I imagined the yard of my grown self. It looked just like hers, the lilacs in exactly the same spots, the iris in a bed out front, surrounded by river rock, the mock orange at each corner of the property, their sweet fragrance carried to the center of my home by a spring breeze.  On Mother’s Day, I’d take out the hanging baskets from my earth floor basement around back of the house and fill them with potting soil, then add the salmon colored sultana, water their roots, and hang the baskets from eye hooks my grandpa would place around my front porch for me. My imagination did not wander far from the reality I knew as a child at my grandmother’s. My mother and I lived in an apartment with a parking lot instead of grass. We didn’t have flower beds like Grandma.

“I’ll put them on my kitchen table,” I said to her so many years ago. “Just like you.”

She died in September of my twenty-fifth year. Her body was planted in the ground where her roots could rest through the winter.  My husband and I bought her house, the only house I felt attached to growing up. The home and yard of my imagination came to me from my grandmother’s nurturing hands. Her lilacs became mine, her perennial and annual beds, mine to tend. Her legacy lived on through me.

The first spring she was gone, I clipped and carried a bouquet of our lilacs in a mason jar to her grave site. I wanted to bring a piece of home to her and a sense of peace to myself. The two of us visited a long time there in the cemetery.  I gave her the news of her snowball bush, the forsythia and japonica in the front yard and the bridal wreath out back. I told her how the peonies had sent up their shoots between our house and the Thomas’, and I let her know that the frost had not killed the cherry tree blooms. There would be pies cooling on her windowsill come summer.

My garden tools live where hers did. My hanging baskets swing from the eye hooks placed there by my grandfather. The scent of mock orange wafts through the house on a spring breeze the second week of May each year, and the lilacs bloom right on schedule.

Twenty-six years have passed since Grandma died, and on this Easter weekend, her spirit rises in me. I cut off the lawnmower and go to the basement in search of my clippers. I cut the blooms from her lilacs, fill a mason jar with cold water from her well, and place her gift to me on our kitchen table.

One Tiny Woman

April 10, 2011

It’s Spring now, but with temperatures dipping into the thirties and forties at night, it’s still cold enough to use the wood burning boiler furnace. The stove sits in the backyard, looking like a small shed. Once a day Bruce fills it with large pieces of oak and locust. The wood is stacked on a trailer pulled up close to make hefting easier. Not having to sweat splitting the lengths into smaller pieces makes them heavier to lift.

The Wren sits on the edge of the blue tarp covering the trailer. She stands her ground even as Bruce walks within two feet of her on the way to the furnace. She bobs up and down on stick legs, chirping her disdain at him. He ignores her and uncovers the day’s allotment of fuel.

Now she’s in distress, flitting from the trailer to the clothesline, to the garden fence post, all the time rattling off a litany of curses at my husband. He’s oblivious, and hard of hearing it seems.

I open the kitchen window and call out. “Can’t you hear her?”

“Hear who?” he questions, looking around for a neighbor or visitor.

“The Wren,” I exclaim, pointing at the little brown bird, having a conniption in the Lilac bush now.

“Where?” Bruce asks.

“Right behind you. She’s been trying to get your attention since you left the house and started that way.”

“I didn’t see her,” he says.

“Well, look around. I’ll bet she has her nest somewhere close.”

Bruce turns around to the bird and says, “Alright, alright, stop fussing. Give me a minute. I’ll see what your problem is.”

He closes the door of the stove having not put one stick in it. He walks over to the far corner of the garden and stands watching until the Wren flits back to the woodpile and ducks under the blue tarp.

I pull the window down and watch Bruce as he leaves the backyard only to return a few minutes later with a wheelbarrow full of wood. He makes a wide berth around the trailer and parks the wood by the stove. He makes three trips to fill it.

I walk out the door to feed the chickens, and Bruce turns to me shaking his head.

“That whole trailer full of wood,” he says, “and I can’t use a stick of it. Women, they sure do make life difficult.”

I can’t help but giggle.

On Missing Spring

May 15, 2010

 

I didn’t feel April this year.  Although the sepia and gray of winter brightened to greens, yellows, blue skies and high whispy clouds, early Spring passed me.  The Crabapples bloomed and the Mock Orange opened its perfume. The birds wake me mornings instead of the alarm and when night comes, the clock says its later than I think. I know the days come and go, they just move fast.  Last year, this part of the calendar let me savor it, a taste on my tongue like the first strawberry. This year, the season hasn’t waited for me to enjoy it. 

May is here and with it, ninety degrees and the humidity that straightens or tightens the curl of hair.  Greens are dark now, and blooms, pink two weeks ago,  are like tiny pieces of crumpled brown paper littering the ground around the bottom of the Japonica. Bees are flying heavy and slow with collections of pollen and hay grows tall.  Buttercups bloom under the barbed wire fence. Shoes come off and soles toughen.

June will come with swift water moving down the mountain.  I want to be there at the bottom, where the cascade splashes into the reservoir.  I missed April, and May is leaving. I want to be ready for, and  feel June.