Monday, July 7, 2014

Is It Over Yet? (When I Was too Depressed to Smell the Lilacs)

One of the things I loved about the Bread Loaf-Orion Environmental Writers Conference was that there was a lilac tree just outside of the building I was staying in. Our lilacs had already gone over, but these were only halfway done, so I got an extended lilac season this year.

Lilacs were one of the early clues, a couple of years ago, that I was not just mother-exhausted, not just tired of living in a place I didn't love. There was something more going on.

Years ago we planted two lilac bushes at our house, and once they got large enough to produce flowers above deer-chomping height, they made gorgeous, fragrant bunches of blossoms.

Only I wasn't smelling them that year. I missed lilac season. I was too busy, couldn't be bothered, I don't know. I didn't take the few steps from our deck or the garage to bury my nose in lilacs, and not doing so made me feel . . . sad, depressed, resentful. Maybe other things.

I've always wavered between pansies and lilacs for my favorite flower -- pansies for their variety and fun, like playful flower-kittens with balls of string, and lilacs for their scent and abundance and their proclamation that spring has truly come. Life feels good when the lilacs are around. They're a sign that things are about to get slow and lovely and luxurious with time and sunshine and days of laughter.

When you can't appreciate that, can't feel it -- when I can't -- there's something wrong. And that year, I couldn't. Nor could I the next year. This year I made intentions. Every time I have to go out to the damn car to haul the kids somewhere (I can't wait to live in a walkable community; having to drive absolutely everywhere is no kind of freedom at all), every time I took the compost out, every time I did anything outside with the kids, I took a minute to step over and smell the lilacs. It was a bit of fake-it-till-you-make-it action, but I think it worked.

Having an extra week to stop, smell the lilacs, and smell them again, to remind myself of dark days and better ones to come, that was a gift.