I love the places lilacs grow and link to stories of books now closed. How they stand on two sides of where a doorway once opened to welcome guests and families into old houses. Hedges of overgrown bowing bushes that line fences and barn walls where small farms rubbed elbows with their neighboring townships.
Honey bees keep the whole bush murmuring and the weightless flower cones bob when the pollen laden burrow and land. Butterflies flit throughout, many varieties, illustrated today with a very pale swallowtail that caught my eye from meters away.
My family moved to the shuswap from the city when I was about 10. My mother brought and purchased various flowering shrubs and bulbs which didn’t really take. The well ran dry, a new one took that whole summer to be located, dug, and functional. The garden she left behind was carefully tended, small but packed with cactus dahlias with heads the size of dinner plates, sprayed and perfect roses, one she spoke of wistfully that bloomed one year at christmas time. In the new garden rodents ate the bulbs, spraying (not understood to be horrific in the time frame) was pointless as the plant eating bugs came from far and wide. The deer ate much of what did manage to bloom, the undergrowth choked the fragile seedlings and the new garden space never really fully flourished.
Some things did, wild dogwood, tiger lilies, lupine and of course some ancient but renewing lilacs. My Mother who was generous to a fault would find herself ranting when people came to visit and wanted to gather up roots or take away bouquets. No one in the city would visit your garden and ask or worse yet, not ask if looting were permissible!
This year, I have noticed a growing number of lilac thieves! It started when I was in town near MaGuire Lake. I saw a well dressed woman surveying the bushes snipping here and there a few blooms to make a large and beautiful bouquet. I was a bit surprised at the boldness. On Mothers day, while driving down broadview I saw a teenaged boy holding a large lilac bouquet looking mortified standing roadside while a women I presume to be a mother handed up stem by stem her roadside finds. The very next day a white haired gent pushing a wheelchair with a frail white haired women stopped to break a branch and give her a lilac to carry. I have found myself imagining the places the lilacs have ended up, in vases or mason jars in kitchen or bedside bringing their perfumed nostalgic presence indoors. Just yesterday near Judge Brecknells fenced and perfect garden, a middle aged man, trunk open leaned in with an armload of deep purple and mauve, and a guilty expression when our eyes met.
But here I am to say, some things are perhaps gifted in abundance as they are intended for sharing. Hats off to the lilac thieves, thanks for stopping to smell and even pilfer the flowers! It is a better world that appreciates beauty and an even better one that shares it.